With James Harden gone, Christian Wood has taken on the job of leading the Houston Rockets, and it’s one he’s taken quite seriously. In a breakout season, Wood is averaging 22.3 points and 10.4 rebounds for the surging Rockets, and so desperate was he to keep that momentum alive that he was even willing to play through an injury in order to do so.
Wood recently missed three games due to a right ankle injury. He has been back for Houston’s past four, but in Thursday’s matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies, he re-injured that ankle on a play in which he was fouled. Knowing that leaving the game would allow Memphis to pick a different free-throw shooter, Wood fought to remain on the floor. Eventually, though, he was convinced to leave the floor by his teammates, who walked him to an awaiting wheelchair. He was later diagnosed with a sprained ankle, and will be evaluated on a weekly basis, the Rockets announced.
The Rockets have scheduled an MRI for Friday, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. They went on to win the game against Memphis and push their record up to 11-10, putting them right back in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. If they do need to play an extended period without Wood, though, their post-Harden renaissance will be challenged.
Still, the Rockets are in need of long-term star power and leadership now that Harden is gone. While Wood can’t provide those things while injured, seeing him fight to remain in the game despite that injury is an encouraging sign for Houston’s future. Wood is performing like a franchise player and acting like a leader. That is the silver lining on this otherwise grim situation.