Another All-Star playing 30-plus minutes can certainly disrupt whatever comfort zone role players had acquired with extended minutes during his near-four-week absence.
Head coach Mike D'Antoni warned that this is just a part of a long 82-game season — a series of adjustment for both star and role players — and one of many to come, as the Rockets seek sole possession of the top seed in the West.
“That's always a risk,” D'Antoni said, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “We've talked about it. Everybody understands the importance of winning. In the long run, that's what it's all about.”
“There will be days. Everybody gets grumpy. That's a normal part of the job process. I think they've bought in. They know that's how it's going to be. Maybe you only get 28 minutes. Maybe you only get 15 when you used to get 20. Trevor (Ariza) playing 35 minutes a game, you might play 30. Some days, they may be grumpier than others, but basically, they're good guys. They want to do what is best for the team.”
Ariza, who's proven a key cog in the system as one of the best defensive players on the team, played his usual 35 minutes during Paul's first game back, but played just 29 on Saturday after the return of Luc Mbah a Moute, claiming he's had no issue with the reduced playing time.
“Of course, we have a lot of players … that can contribute and play big minutes anywhere in this league,” Ariza said. “It's about everybody being on the same page and giving their best effort when they are on the court. I definitely feel a lot fresher.”