6 takeaways from Rockets media day

Excitement and hope filled the room as the Rockets held their annual media day Friday at the Post Oak Hotel in Houston. The Rockets enter this season again with strong title aspirations and weren't shy of making their goal known. Media day has become a day to pass around cliche preseason quotes, but occasionally something stands out that feels of particular importance. Aside from the usual "player A worked on X this summer" or "player B really wants to win a championship this season,'' a couple of interesting themes stood out from Houston's media day.

1. The Rockets seem open to paying the luxury tax

As it stands, the Rockets will be slightly over the luxury tax if they go into training camp with 15 players as Daryl Morey said was the plan to the Houston Chronicle. It seemed as if Houston may try and dodge it this year since they are so close to the line, but Morey said at media day that the team has not closed the book on paying it this year.

2. Houston values the addition of Tyson Chandler more than you'd think

Strangely enough, it seems veteran center Tyson Chandler was one of the stars of media day. Nearly every interview had some sort of passing reference to Chandler and the value he brings to this Rockets team. In fact, GM Daryl Morey's opening remarks at media day included unprompted praise of Chandler and his leadership. "Tyson Chandler's been just so vocal even in his time this offseason with our players, talking to the young guys, and working with the vets," Morey said. "Mike [D'Antoni] really told me how much he's going to add to the team in the locker room.

3. Lots of pressure on young Danuel House

Mike D'Antoni had talked about how essential Danuel House was going to be to Houston this summer and it seems that message has carried into training camp. It's very clear that Houston plans on making House a major rotation player even though he will be coming off the bench. Even Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta talked about his excitement for House at media day.

4. Russell Westbrook doesn't hate the Houston media (yet)!

Jokes aside, from the moment Westbrook took the podium in August for his introductory press conference, he's been cordial with the Houston press. Westbrook was friendly and charismatic in a way that contradicts the image forged of himself in Oklahoma City. Obviously it's still early and games haven't been played yet, but so far so good for nervous media members.

5. The Rockets plan to renovate the Toyota Center pretty soon

When asked about any possible upcoming changes, CEO Tad Brown said the Rockets will likely make upgrades at the Toyota Center for the 20th anniversary of the building. While the building is still in pretty good working condition, Tilman Fertitta and Brown said they would like to spruce it up a little bit. There had been mention of this plan before, but as we near 2021 (the anniversary), it seems Houston plans to move forward on this project soon enough.

6. James Harden and Russell Westbrook have bought into this partnership

With the caveat that it's still very early and we have yet to see anything materialize on the floor, Harden and Westbrook said all the right things at media day about playing together. Both mentioned their long standing friendship as the primary reason the pairing would thrive. Mike D'Antoni said Houston plans to stagger the two so one of either Harden or Westbrook is on the floor for all 48 minutes. It's early, but if Harden and Westbrook are serious about putting egos and individual accomplishments aside, there's reason for optimism for this pairing to succeed.

There are still plenty of things to learn about this Rockets team, including the players and coaches that didn't get a chance to speak at media day (notably associate head coach Elston Turner). With training camp opening up today, it should be interesting to meet some of the new faces (and old ones, in the case of returning forward Ryan Anderson) and see what the points of emphasis are for Houston entering preseason.

4th and a Mile with Paul Muth

Gyms, Astros, power rankings, and trial by combat

A lot can go wrong here. Photo by Joshua Jordan

So I was at the gym Tuesday. Not bragging.

I've never been a fan of gyms. I like lifting, but I don't like gyms. I don't like the music (even if I actually like the music), I don't like the culture, I don't like vibe. But I also don't own a squat rack, and unless I can guarantee that my landlord won't take away my deposit for doing deadlifts in the kitchen, it's off to the gym I go.

Even if everything is perfectly fine, I unwittingly go out of my way to find things that annoy me every time. I'm constantly looking for more reasons to dislike gyms, like watching the guy with a sleeveless black button down over his red short-sleeved under armour shirt and cargo pants sitting at the lat pulldown machine for 5 minutes having a conversation through his airpods without attempting a single rep.

Now I'm not gym gatekeeping, I'm not qualified to do so even if I wanted to. I'm just grumpy. I want to be alone but I don't have the option so everything bugs me. My big giant over-the-ear headphones should suggest my preference for solitude.

So Tuesday.

I'm over by the dumbells, near a bench. Nothing of mine is on the bench. I AM NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE BENCH.

I'm about to start a set of 15 reps. I tighten my wrist straps. Deep breath. Let's get it.

I'm facing the mirror and I see a guy approaching from behind, eyeballing that stupid bench. He stops at it and begins to stare at me.

I don't like gyms. I close my eyes to focus on finishing my set. That's when I felt him tap my shoulder.

Now this dude isn't part of the "New Year, New Me," crowd. He's this jacked little guy who has obviously spent enough time in a gym to understand that one of the cardinal sins within the Iron Temple is interrupting a set for anything short of life, limb, or loss of eyesight.

As my eyes summoned the power of a thousand suns to glare through his spaghetti strap "Beast Mode" tank top, I ripped my headphones off and whipped around to find out what was so important.

"Are you using this bench?"

I'll let you imagine what happened next, but it wasn't cordial.

I don't like gyms.

To the Astros Apologists

This advice is coming from someone who has gone to at least 30 games a season for the past four years. I've got excel spreadsheets documenting every game. I've traveled across the country for years just to catch Astros away games, and I've got an Orbit tattoo that's hard to show off in the winter. I've lived and breathed this team as long as I can remember. With that said:


After reading reddit comments, tweets, Facebook posts, and even a few radio listener call-ins, there seems to be this idea that Astros fans should "accept being a villian," and adopt an "us against the world" mentality.

This chapter in the Astros franchise ended much like Adam Sandler's latest movie, "Uncut Gems." It ends so abruptly, that in the midst of the whiplash you're caught trying to see if there was something that was missed, and if in fact it's actually over.

It's over. The investigation is over. The Astros unequivocally cheated, and when you wake up tomorrow, they will still have cheated regardless of how mad you are about the whole thing. Adopting some "us against the world" mentality says more about your values than it does your fanhood. So let's ease off that approach and find a different way to cope.

Instead, take it on the chin. I'm not saying abandon your team, but just because it's a thing you love doesn't mean you should blindly defend the indefensible. We all knew that one kid growing up who would get into all kinds of trouble, but was never disciplined because his mom believed he was an angel who could do no wrong. Don't be that mom. Own that they messed up, handle it however you want, but don't defend them.

I'm still not sure how to process the whole thing myself. It's like looking back on fond memories with someone after you learned they cheated on you. I don't think it's enough to end the relationship, but I do need some time to step back and reassess.

World Power Rankings of the Week

#5 James Harden's new 'do

I wasn't sure if the braids were hanging around, but our dude is lookin' slick these days and Reddit's r/Rockets is having a mild meltdown over it.

#4 Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Durant's twitter beef

Honestly, all twitter beef is gold, but this week offered some solid haymakers from retired big man Kendrick Perkins, and the NBA all-time record holder for feelings per minute, Kevin Durant. Perk called KD a quitter, KD told Perk he was trash, and down the hill we went. I'm a sucker for NBA drama and it rarely disappoints.

#3 Leonardo DiCaprio, Lifesaver

Imagine having fallen off a cruise liner and treading water for roughly 11 hours. The thought of a rescue would begin to seem dim. Now imagine a glistening yacht arriving out of nowhere and plucking you from your impending watery grave. That's already a pretty awesome way to elude death's icy grip. Finding out who this yacht belonged to must have been pretty sweet as well.

#2 Anything Derrick Henry does in January

Anyone watching the playoffs next to me during any Titans game has since become tired of me reminding everyone that his nickname is "Tractorsito." He's throwing touchdowns, he's stiff arm spinning opponents and pushing them into their own teammates. He's also more than doubling his quarterback's passing yards (160) with his rushing yards (377) throughout the playoffs.

#1 Trial by combat

I'm down for it anytime, anywhere. As a spectator. Especially when you're requesting it from a judge toward your ex and her attorney during a custody battle so that you can "rend their souls" from their bodies. Not sure I'd want that on record, but ok.

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