Harden: 'We have no more excuses'
A year ago, the Rockets didn’t have James Harden. They didn’t have Dwight Howard. They had a young team without much of a chance and without high expectations.
What a difference a year makes.
The Rockets traded for Harden just before last season and made it to the playoffs. This July, they signed Howard, the best center in the NBA and the biggest fish in the free-agent pond. Those two, combined with role players like Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin, have expectations soaring in Houston.
“The fact that it happened is very special and I think we’re focused on winning now,” said the mastermind behind the assembly of the team, general manager Daryl Morey said.
“Everything’s about all-in right now. We know first-hand in Houston. We had Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady very young and it looked like that run was going to be a long time. And your chances to be very good in this league are very special. And when you have them, you have to focus 100 percent on getting as far as possible.”
The season doesn't start for another month, but Morey said a Rockets team hasn’t had this feel since Yao and McGrady were both coming into a season healthy. There’s a strong buzz around the City of Houston and Harden said that buzz is being heard throughout NBA circles also.
The Rockets made the playoffs in 2012-13 in Harden’s first year with the club, which had the youngest roster in the NBA. But they were the eighth seed in the West and were eliminated by Harden’s former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in the first round of the playoffs.
A first-round exit this season would be a failure.
“We can go as far as we want to go,” Harden said on Friday. “We have a lot of chemistry to build with the addition of Dwight (Howard) but we have all the right pieces. We have a lot of talent in that locker room. We’re no longer younger. Last year you could say we were the youngest team in the league; you could make all these excuses. We have no more excuses. Guys have been to the playoffs. They know what it feels like to be on the road, one of the loudest crowds in the NBA.”
Howard is considered by many to be the best center in the NBA. He had a down year with the Lakers last season but still led the league in rebounding. Howard, in a down year with Los Angeles in 2012-13, still averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. He’s one of two players in the history of the NBA to average at least 18, 12 and two for his career.
The expectations are soaring for the Rockets going into this season. Lin, who has had to deal with plenty of high expectations before, said managing expectations will be paramount to the team’s success.
“We understand that nothing’s gonna be given to us,” said Parsons, the starting small forward. “Right now, it’s just a bunch of names on paper but it’s some really, really good names.”
Parsons said he thinks one of the goals for the team should be locking up home-court advantage in the Western Conference. It’s a tough goal, he admitted, but one he thinks the team can accomplish.
But that goal means nothing to Howard.
“Seeds don’t matter. We want a championship,” he said. “That’s the only thing that matters. Like I said, I believe in this team.”