“Moses” – It was a busy weekend for the Houston Rockets. Training camp began on Saturday following Friday’s media day, meaning that hours of inane soundbites were delivered, thousands of words were parsed, and oceans of digital ink were spilt. It’s a lot to navigate.
USA Today’s Sam Amick probably captured the mood best with this exchange between Howard and Harden on media day:
“Moses!” Howard yelled to his co-star as they switched spots. “The leader of the Red Nation is going to part the Red Sea. Moses!”
And with that bit of insightful banter, an attempt at prophecy here at the unofficial start of the NBA season: this Howard and Harden pairing is going to work just fine.
If you were tired of calling him “The Beard,” you now have an excellent alternative.
Amick (who was the first to correctly report Dwight’s free agency decision) goes on to compare and contrast Howard’s first days in L.A. with his first days in Houston, and examines how the differences point to greater success for Superman in a Rockets uniform.
Leadership – One of several questions going into this season, aside from the Howard-Asik relationship (we’re getting there) is the alpha-dog relationship between Harden and Howard. Although I may be reading to much into it, it would seem that Howard’s “Moses” joke indicates a slight deference to Harden. I have two reasons to believe this. First, Harden has already established himself within the culture of the team. He was there first and has already assumed a “buck stops here” responsibility for the team’s performance. Second, unlike Kobe Bryant in L.A., Harden can reasonably be expected to maintain a high level of play after Howard has declined. However, at this point in their careers, Howard is the more accomplished player.
Harden responded to a question (7:45 mark) about how the leadership situation may have changed thusly:
[Howard] has experience. He has experience, and the other players look up to him as well. So he has the ability to talk and kind of show his leadership whether it’s communicating or whether it’s showing it on the court. I’m the same way, so it’s for both of us to make sure the team is on the same page at all times.
In other words, no one is going to claim the the clear-cut alpha dog title. Like ancient Sparta and Rome, it looks like the Rockets will be a diarchy. The thing about diarchies is that inevitably one of the two rulers almost always rises to the forefront either through cunning or force of personality. I would bet on Harden.
Say the Right Thing – The Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen went there with Omer Asik, asking about rumors that the Turkish behemoth demanded a trade after Howard’s arrival.
“I came here to play basketball,” Asik said. “That’s my job. I’ll just be ready for the training camp.
“I think he’s the best center in the league. That’s a great addition for the Houston Rockets. We’ll see how it goes. I’m a basketball player. I’ll do whatever the coaches say. I’m just going to be ready for the training camp, be ready for every change. Whatever I can do, we’ll see.”
As long as Asik do anything drastic, like break Howard’s femur in training camp, I’m sure everything will be fine. Howard fielded several Asik-related questions on media day, and he talked a bit about how everyone will need to sacrifice for the team (which led to Brian Windhorst’s chilling comparison of Howard’ his first statements in Lakerland) and about how he is willing to play the 4.
All That Power – Marc Stein’s Power Rankings are back! Houston ranked no. 6, which I think is unfair when you see that Brooklyn is ranked above them (far too high at no. 3 in my opinion), but totally fair when you see that OKC is ranked below them (they’re better than no. 7, again, in my opinion). Stein writes:
Houston won the summer … or, at worst, shares Best Offseason honors with Brooklyn. They probably need one season together before we really see the Rockets threatening to win the West, but they are also never really done making moves. So stay tuned to see what they get for Asik.
Bring Me My Bow of Burning Gold – It has been three years since the Houston Rockets have truly been able to equip themselves for battle in training camp. Two seasons ago, training camp was abridged because of the lockout. Last year, everything was turned on its head because of the Harden trade. On Saturday, the focus was on defense, and on Sunday, McHale delivered some gems about chemistry.
“We stepped on the court and our games complemented each other, and if we didn’t say a word to each other, it (still) fit,” said McHale, recalling his title-winning days with the Celtics. “Two guys can get along great, they can be best friends, they can have dinner every single night and still not be able to play together – that doesn’t make any difference. It’s how they play together and that’s really honestly what it is.
“You can’t force chemistry. This isn’t Match.com. (Our players) are going to have to go out there and find chemistry. There’s no guaranteeing anything. Until you’ve done it, there’s no guaranteeing you will do it.
“The best thing is that, when it really happens naturally, is when you play with guys where your skill level complements them and their strength complements your weakness, and it just flows. The stuff they can’t do, you do very well. And the stuff you can’t do, they do very well. And you go out and play and it fits.”
He who knows, knows. McHale’s recorded interviews are always fun to watch, if for no other reason than that you can always tell his mood. On Sunday, he looked very relaxed. That’s a good look.
Nice Pad – The Rockets’ locker room and training area was overhauled to the tune of $7 million dollars this offseason. It looks awesome. Screens above each player’s locker can feed them statistical information, the workout and office areas are full of open collaborative spaces, and the locker area looks like a much better place to spray champagne than the old one. Two thumbs up.
His Hair, Her Heart – Chandler Parsons has done everything an NBA player can do to make himself marketable to the Belieber demographic. Grantland’s Juliet Litman has taken notice:
It has been a busy summer for him. In case you haven’t been closely monitoring his Twitter feed, here’s what you missed these past few months. Following the Rockets’ loss in the playoffs, Parsons hit the red-carpet circuit hard. Stops have included the Billboard Music Awards, the ESPYS, the Paranoiapremiere, and The Familypremiere. At all times his hair has been carefully coifed, each time with slight deviations and experiments.
When will he learn that his slightly longer, in-game hair is his best look?
It’s The Hair’s world, and we’re just living in it.
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