Veteran Houston Rocket players had messages for new acquisitions to the team: Know your role. "If they don't fall in line, that's what I'm here for," Gerald Green said at Rockets media day. "I'll make sure they get in line." When asked about how the team would get guys to play hard on defense, Chris Paul didn't hesitate. "If you think you're going to come to our team and not play defense," he said, "[P.J. Tucker] got another thing coming for you."
In watching the Houston Astros over the last few seasons, it's easy to see the camaraderie from Club Astros to the Bregman Dugout Stare. But, these guys practically grew up together. The core of the team came up through the minors and nearly the same time.
For the 2018 Rockets, these are mostly veterans, many of them new to the team over the last year. In the case of Carmelo Anthony, it's been only weeks since he joined. But even Anthony seems to get it. When pressed on whether or not he would come off the bench this season if asked, he was clear. "Whatever I have to do to help this team win a championship, then that’s what’s going to be done," he said. "I know what my role is."
Media days are typically pretty bland affairs filled with mostly canned responses to questions players, coaches and owners have heard before. There is often a theme: defense, offense, playing hard, etc. But, the one thing that was apparent from new forward James Ennis to MVP James Harden, the emphasis will be on maintaining an identity that brought them 65 wins and one game short of the Western Conference Finals last season.
Many of the players cited a recent trip to the Bahamas where they gathered for an unofficial minicamp. Guys were required to be in shape and play hard. Harden said even he was surprised at the intensity of the young players who joined. "One thing about this team as well when guys aren't working hard, which is rare," he explained, "You're going to stick out like a sore thumb."
Even Anthony, who would seem to have a great deal of pressure on him given his lackluster stint in Oklahoma City last year, appeared already comfortable with his new surroundings, saying his second time playing for coach Mike D'Antoni, something that didn't work out well in New York, was a chance to "write a new story."
Of course, everything sounds great, feels great, looks great when you haven't lost a game yet, when you haven't even had a practice. But in a city where "culture" hasn't always been the hallmark of pro teams (ask the team playing at NRG about it), the Rockets clearly have zeroed in on what they believe is essential to getting back to the Western Conference Finals and beyond this season. D'Antoni agrees with his players. "With our players mentality and what is at stake and what they want," he said, "We can win."
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