TALK OF THE TOWN
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.