TALK OF THE TOWN

6 takeaways from Rockets media day

Rockets.com

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.

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The Texans are moving in the wrong direction. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

1. This team started incredibly slow and outside of a couple of drives in the second half disappointed. The defense got worked by the Chargers' star players, and the offense sputtered too often. It was really a summary of the season up to this point which is to say inconsistency.

2. Davis Mills was shaky early. The first drive interception was tough to stomach. The pocket got messy as he tried to drive the ball and he floated one up there. It gave the Chargers an easy drive for seven points.

3. One of the early offensive mistakes erased a scoring opportunity. Kenyon Green got nailed for a holding call that erased one of the best passes and catches between Brandin Cooks and Davis Mills all season. The rookie’s mistake was compounded the very next play when the offense allowed Mills to be sacked. It was a 40-yard swing that led to a punt.

4. Another third down penalty led to a mishap for the Texans. Laremy Tunsil gets a false start on third down to make it third and 10. The shovel pass to Rex Burkhead goes for six yards and then the Texans botch the field goal. Back-to-back drives and third-down penalties affected the offense and ended with no points. That was all just in the first quarter!

5. The Texans were abysmal with short yardage in key spots yet again. In the second quarter, Pep Hamilton opted for a pass on fourth and one. Davis Mills never got the play off and was sacked. After the game, Mills said the team wanted to catch the Chargers off guard running when most expected a pass, but Rex Burkhead was the running back. It was again a situation, a key and critical moment, that the team trusted Burkhead over the more dynamic Dameon Pierce.

6. The Chargers were very chunky on offense against the Texans. There were 16 plays that went for at least ten yards for the Chargers of their 67 plays. Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler were fantastic for Los Angeles.

7. The pass rush was non-existent for the Texans. This was one of the more disappointing aspects of the day to consider the Chargers were playing a rookie right guard, their center is injured but playing, and the left tackle was a backup left tackle. Nothing seemed to get home on an injured Justin Herbert. The Texans recorded just two quarterback hits in the game.

8. The linebackers got worked again. This is the absolute weakest unit on the team right now. They look like they’re easily exploited by most opposing offenses.

9. It was a rough day for the rookie class of the Texans. Derek Stingley was handled by Mike Williams on multiple occasions in key spots. Kenyon Green allowed a big sack and had a holding penalty erase a huge play. Jalen Pitre was the target of some offensive success in the Chargers' passing game.

10. Not all the rookies had a bad day. Dameon Pierce is so much fun to watch. He has the chance to be a truly impactful player for this team. His 75-yard touchdown scamper gave the team some juice, and he constantly fights and gets extra yards when the ball is headed his way. He finished with 14 carries and six catches for 20 total touches.

11. The Texans need teams to help them stay in games, and even then, it is a challenge. The tough part about where the Texans are through four games is there are some positives to look at and point to, but not enough to say the team is surely headed in the right direction. There surely has to be some adjustment by the team when the season is where it is after nearly a quarter of the year. The current direction isn’t going to lead anywhere positive soon.

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