EDINBURG — The roster revolving door has already started for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
The Vipers finalized their 2019-2020 roster on Tuesday, but the word “finalized” is anything but final in the ever-changing world of the NBA G League.
Since Saturday’s exhibition game, two familiar faces have also been added to the roster in Isaiah Hartenstein and Gary Clark. Neither took part in the Vipers Media Day interviews with the press on Tuesday.
Hartenstein, the 7-foot center who had an MVP-like year and was a huge reason the Vipers captured their third NBA title, has caught the eye of the Houston Rockets’ brass and will, more than likely, be called up at some point in the season. He was considered by many to be the leading candidate over the summer to back up Rockets center Clint Capela until the Rockets added veteran Tyson Chandler to the roster. Chandler, however, is 36 and just averaging 2.0 points and less than seven minutes per game.
Hartenstein averaged 16 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.7 steals per game during the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas before spraining his ankle during the Rockets’ 94-92 victory over the Sacramento Kings. His injury forced him to miss the rest of summer league.
Hartenstein averaged 19.5 points and 14.7 rebounds in 27 games for the Vipers last year, intermittently being called up to Houston.
First-year head coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah said there was talk that Hartenstein and Clark would end back up in the Vipers’ lap. What it came down to, he said, was what would be best for the players.
“It was about what was best for their development,” Abdelfattah said. “What’s the best situation for our guys where they can be more successful?
“Everyone wishes they were playing in the NBA. (Hartenstein) knows what he has to do and it’s a good opportunity for him to continue to show what he did last year. What he did for us last year was unbelievable, but the Rockets were just that talented in those positions.”
Clark had been averaging 2.2 points per game in five games with the Rockets. He was shooting just 15% from 3-point land, an area that he shot 56% in five games last year with Houston. Abdelfattah said that being consistent in what both Clark and Hartenstein do will be key to seeing them move up, and stay with the parent club. He averaged 12 points, seven rebounds and 2.3 assists with the Vipers.
“They need to be who they are,” Abdelfattah said. “Gary needs to be able to continue to stretch the floor. He has the size that can guard multiple positions defensively and play multiple positions. He needs to just do that.
“Isaiah has the highest motor I’ve been around. He’s great with his reads and his basketball IQ is phenomenal. He just continues to work and improve all aspects of the game.”
THE GOOD OLE DAYS
When the Vipers play Friday at Austin, it may bring back some memories to first-year G League player Kerwin Roach.
Roach, a 6-foot-5 guard, played basketball at North Shore High School before committing to the University of Texas. As a freshman, he was named Big 12 All-Newcomer of the Year,
Roach said he remembers going with coaches and teammates to some G League games in Austin.
“That brings a lot of motivation,” he said about playing in Austin. “It’s very exciting and I’m looking forward to it.”
Roach added he’s also looking to have family and friends come see him play.
“Staying in Texas is great,” he said. “I spent my high school years and years after in Texas and now family can make that drive down here.”
Like many of the other first-year Viper players, he’s enjoying the fast pace the team plays for the entire game.
“It’s something you dream about, playing like that,” he said. “It’s how I play video games.”
RGV plays its season opener at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Austin. The next day, the Vipers play their home opener at 7:30 p.m. versus Austin at Bert Ogden Arena.