James Harden to miss at least two games with hamstring strain

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With 1:25 left in the third quarter Thursday night, in a game that was still in doubt, James Harden motioned to Mike D’Antoni on the bench and asked out. He did not return due to what was then called a tight hamstring, and the Rockets eventually fell to the Jazz, 100-89.

Harden had an MRI on Thursday and was diagnosed with a grade 1 hamstring strain, which will be re-evaluated in about a week.

What does that mean?

The Rockets are already without James Ennis, who has a Grade 2 hamstring strain. While the Rockets say Ennis will be re-evaluated in a week, Grade 2 strains tend to keep players out 3-4 weeks, meaning it’s unlikely he plays on the five-game road trip that starts Nov. 2.

On the bright side, the Rockets will get back Chris Paul for Friday’s game, back from his two-game suspension for having the unmitigated gall to stand up for himself when Rajon Rondo spit on him. (Read the end of that last sentence again in a sarcastic voice before commenting.)

The Rockets are off to a rocky 1-3 start with both an offense and a defense in the bottom 11 of the NBA. While the offense will right itself once everyone gets healthy, there were questions about the defense going into the season after the team gave up Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute (and, maybe more importantly, assistant coach and defensive coordinator Jeff Bzdelik). Those problems have looked worse than expected, the Rockets’ communication on switches and comfort level in the defensive system is not the same.

It’s a long season, the Rockets have time to get guys healthy and figure out the defense. But right now, they do not look like the team that was up at half of Game 7 against the Warriors in the playoffs last season.