It may not seem like it, but Danuel House is a huge part of the Rockets' rotation. As an ideal 3-and-D player, House is a sniper from deep and a pest on the defensive end.
Losing him hurt an already thin rotation and it is likely part of the reason the Rockets looked so bad in Game 4.
But the big story regarding House is not his importance to Houston but, rather, why he was suspended in the first place.
It was the result of the NBA's ongoing investigation into reports that he had an unauthorized guest in his room for "multiple hours" earlier this week. Despite objections, the league promptly suspended House and had him exit the bubble completely, deeming him guilty of breaking quarantine rules.
According to what sources told Ben Golliver, the Rockets are pretty rattled by the whole ordeal, feeling that they're being left out of the process.
People with knowledge of the situation, who were granted anonymity to speak candidly about the ongoing investigation, said that the Rockets were “blindsided” by the NBA’s decision and that there had been little direct communication between the league office and team officials and Houston had received no formal presentation of evidence. Instead, communication continues between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association.
“The NBA is treating [House] as guilty until proven innocent for safety reasons,” said one person with knowledge of the situation. “They're prioritizing their perception of safety over everything else. The NBPA feels its hands are tied. Any time [the union] talks about due process or presumption of guilt, [the NBA] immediately says, ‘Safety, safety, safety.’ There has to be some limit or balance.”
Some have even noted how a double-standard may be at play with how the league is handling this situation.
“If it was a star player, there’s no way [the NBA] would handle it this way,” said a person close to House with direct knowledge of the investigation. “They want to make an example out of somebody.”
House's absence has no doubt been a distraction to the team. As they try to navigate their way through their series against the Lakers, the obstacles facing them continue to increase.
Down 1-3, the Rockets are on the brink of elimination without a key player, with a clearly flawed playstyle, and with many fans having already lost hope. What is there to do now but hope for a miracle?