John Wall vowed that he would return to his previous All-Star form after being absent for nearly two years with heel and Achilles tendon injuries. His preseason debut with the Houston Rockets on Friday night at least suggested that hope is possible.
It was also a very encouraging first step in a rocket uniform for DeMarcus Cousins, the four-time all-star center that derailed from three serious injuries while jumping around four teams in four seasons, including a torn ACL for which he was out all last season after signing with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Tonight it was just great to be back at an NBA game,” said Wall.
Trading for Russell Westbrook along with a protected future first-round selection from the Washington Wizards to the Rockets, Wall had 13 points on 6-of-10, five rebounds, nine assists and two steals on Houston’s 125-104 -Victorious over the Chicago Bulls.
Cousins who signed a one-year veteran minimum contract with the Rockets had 14 points on 5-of-7, five rebounds, two steals, and two blocks in 15 minutes during the blowout.
“It’s step by step with these guys,” said Rockets trainer Stephen Silas. “We really didn’t know what to expect when these guys walked through the door. They both had injuries. They played very well tonight. They both looked very good. They were fun. Hopefully we can build this out, but it’s an everyday thing. “
The pair appeared to pick up where they left off as teammates with the 2009-10 Kentucky Wildcats, rather than showing rust from lengthy injury layoffs.
Wall opened the game by turning left into the lane before performing a nifty Euro step and ending with a right-handed layup. The next time he had the ball, he gave Cousins some support for a pick-and-pop 3-pointer.
“I just knew I was back,” said Wall. “I know how much hard work I’ve put in over the past two years. It was a surreal moment for me, even though it was preseason.”
Cousins and Wall all made up 14 points during the Rockets’ 14-2 run for the first three minutes. Danuel House Jr. scored 11 points in this distance.
“Man, cool feeling,” said Cousins. “I had flashbacks when I was back in college watching John’s show. I had a few moments tonight just waiting to see what he had up my sleeve next. It really is an I am glad to share the word with a man I consider my brother. “
It was a welcome shift in focus from the saga of James Harden’s brief holdout and the desire to be traded. The Rockets were missing three of their likely starters when forward P.J. Tucker stayed in Houston and trained with Harden and center Christian Wood was out with a left elbow injury.
“It was a good show for anyone who’s watching, including anyone who’s interested,” said Cousins. “It shows that there is still a really good team here, regardless of the circumstances of the team. It’s still a really good team, a lot of talent. We don’t roll around because there are a few parts. ” We’ll go out and perform. Hopefully these pieces will come to us and we will keep improving as a team. “