Key Houston Rockets reserve forward Luc Mbah a Moute is optimistic that he will be able to play in Sunday's Game 1 against the Utah Jazz after missing the first round due to a dislocated right shoulder.
Mbah a Moute, who suffered the injury in the Rockets' April 10 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, is officially listed as questionable. He went through his first full practice of the playoffs on Saturday, which he hopes is the final step before being cleared to return.
Mbah a Moute missed a month after dislocating his right shoulder in mid-December, but this injury was not as severe.
"I'm ready in my mind," Mbah a Moute told reporters in Houston before the practice, adding that the final determination on his status will be made Sunday. "I've done this already, so I'm not used to it, but I pretty much know what to expect."
Mbah a Moute has provided tremendous value for the Rockets after signing for the veteran's minimum during the offseason. The 10-year veteran averaged 7.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in 25.6 minutes per game and is a versatile defensive stopper who has been critical to the success of the Rockets' switch-heavy scheme. Mbah a Moute's defensive rating of 101.2 points allowed per 100 possessions is the lowest of the 10 Houston players who averaged at least 20 minutes per game.
"Luc is a huge part of what we're trying to do," Rockets star James Harden told reporters. "We've been missing him. Luckily we got past the first round, but in order to get where we want to go, he's going to be a big part of that."