Houston Rockets vs. Washington Wizards preseason game preview

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The Houston Rockets begin their 2021-22 campaign tonight with a preseason game against the Washington Wizards.

The Rockets will be delighted to leave behind last season’s worst result. In the squad are Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher and Usman Garuba, all acquired on draft night. Houston lost Kelly Olynyk in free agency, but got a nice consolation prize in Daniel Theis. Most of the time, the rest of the squad remains the same, other than the fact that Houston is starting the season much healthier than it ended last season. It’s almost like a badly injured team results in a ton of casualties.

Tonight’s game is mostly about seeing the young pieces and how they fit into the roster. Conventional wisdom tells us that Green and Sengun should get decent minutes and that Christopher and Garuba could spend a lot of time with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. But conventional wisdom has taken a hit in the age of analysis, so what do I know?

The other players that interest me are Dante Exum and Jae’Sean Tate. Exum was injured for most of last season and didn’t play for the Rockets at all. After a great run for Australia at the Olympics, her stock has increased. Still, Houston managed to get him signed again and stay in this system. It was a curious move that took on a bit more meaning once news broke that John Wall wouldn’t play for the Rockets. Houston now has a bunch of ballhandlers, but there is certainly an opportunity for Exum to step in.

Tate was aptly named First Team All-Rookie after last season. He’ll be 26 at the end of the month, so that’s not the normal definition of a sophomore pro, but it’ll be interesting to see what he does for an encore. His tenacity was evident throughout a lost season, and when you’re one of the bright spots of a season devoid of much, expectations mount. He (and to a lesser extent, Kenyon Martin, Jr.) will need to show that they can contribute even when their utilization rates drop.

The Wizards traded Russell Westbrook for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. They selected Gonzaga’s sniper and hair model Corey Kispert before the Rockets were traded for Sengun. The pre-season concerns your team more than the other since the result does not matter.

Tonight also marks the start of the Craig Ackerman-Ryan Hollins era for local Houston televised games. Ackerman has been doing road games for AT&T for the past few years, but now he’s the full-time TV guy. Hollins is new to Houston fans. He played for nine NBA teams, but never for the Rockets.

Tipping is at 7 p.m. CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest


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