JANUARY 17: Capela underwent successful surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, general manager Daryl Morey announced on Thursday. Capela is expected to miss four to six weeks of action, as previously reported.
JANUARY 14: The injury bug continues to plague the Rockets. Already down multiple key contributors, Houston will now be without starting center Clint Capela for the next four to six weeks due to a right thumb injury, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarwoski (Twitter link). According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), an MRI on the injury showed ligament damage.
The Rockets have been playing well lately despite both Chris Paul and Eric Gordon being sidelined with injuries of their own, largely due to the efforts of Capela and MVP candidate James Harden. With Capela now on the shelf too, Harden will face his most difficult challenge of 2018/19 so far as he looks to keep Houston in a playoff position. Currently, the 24-18 Rockets are tied for fifth in the West, but the ninth-seeded Jazz are 23-21, so there’s not a whole lot of room for error.
After signing a lucrative new five-year contract with the Rockets in the offseason, Capela is enjoying the best season of his five-year career, establishing new highs in PPG (17.6), RPG (12.6), APG (1.5), and several other categories.
With Capela out, the Rockets will lean more heavily on Nene, with Isaiah Hartenstein and Marquese Chriss among their other options at the five. The team may also try to get away with more small-ball lineups, using someone like P.J. Tucker at center.
A roster move would benefit the Rockets, but they don’t have a ton of roster or financial flexibility to add help at this point. There’s an opening on their 15-man roster, but two-way player Danuel House seems likely to claim that spot very soon. If that happens, Houston would open up a two-way slot for a new addition — the deadline to sign a player to a two-way contract is Tuesday.
If the Rockets feel the need to create another opening on their 15-man roster, the most obvious move would be to finally release Carmelo Anthony. In that scenario, the team could turn to 10-day contracts or a rest-of-season signing to address its frontcourt. However, the in-the-tax Rockets will have to be wary of increasing their projected tax bill with any signings.