With the 2013-14 Houston Rockets making their preseason debut this Saturday, paired with another disappointment from the local football team, folks around town are finally starting to talk about the team again.
The vibe in Houston is that it is “championship or bust.” While every team (in theory) has title aspirations from Day 1, every member of the Rockets that spoke emphasized the need to win immediately. James Harden said there are no more excuses. Dwight Howard stressed everyone needing to sacrifice something for the greater good.
This team knows the score. They know that, with all of this newfound publicity, all eyes will be on them. Howard, who has been hampered by injuries and distractions the past three seasons, claims to be feeling the best he’s felt in years.
With no pending free agency or recent surgery, there are no excuses for Howard to fall back on this season. He is Houston’s $88-million man and his ability to assimilate himself onto this team will be huge.
Lastly, while Harden and Howard deservedly got a bulk of the attention, the biggest subplot of the 2013 Houston Rockets will be the lower-key guys. Chandler Parsons got himself in better shape to become better defensively. Jeremy Lin is coming off his first full season as a starter. Terrence Jones has been working on his jumper to become more of an outside threat in the hopes of gaining more playing time. Omer Asik will be fighting for minutes in a suddenly crowded front court.
This Houston Rockets team is so packed full of potential that it is hard to put a finger on how they will fare if everything breaks their way in 2013. Offensively, they have enough weapons to be one of the NBA’s top scoring teams again. The addition of Dwight Howard opens up so many fun dimensions and will allow them to attack opponents on both ends of the court in so many ways. The attention he draws in the paint will create opportunities for any of the team’s plethora of outside threats.
If Howard and Asik work together, Houston will have an advantage on the interior on a nightly basis. There aren’t many teams that have a big man that can rebound or defend at a high level. The Rockets happen to have two, and the plan is to play them together for as long as it proves to be beneficial. Because of this, the team’s perimeter defense could be vastly improved if Harden and Parsons make good on their commitment to become better stoppers. With a variety of scoring options, one guy doesn’t have to worry about wearing himself out on the offensive end.
The future is bright for these Rockets but, as Daryl Morey pointed out, that small window of time as contenders can shut quickly. Houston won’t be a young team forever and they are going to cut their teeth against great teams in Oklahoma City and San Antonio.
The ability to get past solid teams out west will show this team’s mettle. For now, everyone’s said all of the right things and appear to all be on the same page. Let’s see if that remains the case when the regular season tips off.