Harden: 'We're gonna make it work'
As Dwight Howard stood up and began to walk out of the interview room in the bowels of Toyota Center, James Harden walked in the room and past Howard before taking the seat on stage.
But before Howard left the room he turned back around and offered some parting words about his new superstar teammate Harden.
“The Red Nation’s gonna part the Red Sea,” said a smiling Howard before pointing toward Harden. “Moses!”
Together, Harden and Howard are the two biggest stars on the Rockets and form the duo the team hopes will lead the Rockets to a championship this season. In order for the Rockets to be successful, however, those two stars will need to work well together.
“If we’re going to have the type of success we want to have – and this goes for any team – the top players have to figure out how to play together,” head coach Kevin McHale said. “There is one ball so you’re gonna have to share it.
“It’s embracing playing with other good players and that’s what any championship team has done, since I’ve been in the league the last 30-some years, is that they’ve embraced playing together. When they don’t, it’s like the two positive magnets, go ‘doink’ it doesn’t work.”
The combination of Harden and Howard is unlike many in the league. This is the first time Houston has had a combination like that since Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.
Harden was traded to the Rockets just before last season and established himself as the franchise player, averaging 24.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. Even in a down year with the Lakers, Howard was still very good, averaging 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds per game.
“Very excited,” GM Daryl Morey said. “If you go back just 12 months and you say ‘hey, in a year you’re going to have a premier guy on the wing, a premier guy in the post’ I’d have thought they were crazy.”
Harden, along with Chandler Parsons, helped lead the recruiting charge to get Howard to Houston. Now that Howard is here, the team needs to be able to gel, a process they began this summer with team workouts in Colorado and California.
Harden became the leader of the youngest team in the league last season and remains in that role. But now, he has some help from the veteran Howard, who has been in the NBA for nine seasons.
“I don’t think it always has to be one guy,” said point guard Jeremy Lin. “I think right now, we’re really listening to both those voices. I think both of them have done a great job of leading in their different ways and I think Dwight has given a lot of advice, knowing what he went through last year in LA and the year before. I think James, coming from OKC, seeing what it’s like to be able to do it at that level, have that program and that culture. I think they’re leading in their different styles and I think it’s really helpful for the team.”
Howard said this team feels more like the teams he played for in Orlando. Those teams, he said, got along very well and spent a ton of time together in the offseason. Howard found his success in Orlando with those teams.
“I think that’s the reason why I’m so excited about this training camp,” Harden said. “I have another guy who’s been through the experience, who knows what it takes to get to the Finals right next to me. And we’ll lead it from there.”
Harden said he can learn things from Howard and Howard can learn things from him.
“That’s the kind of partnership and friendship we’re going to have in order to be successful,” Harden said. “It’s my job to make it work.”