When Rockets general manager Rafeal Stone and head coach Stephen Silas – both entering their second year in the capacities — talk about this year’s team the word that keeps coming up is fun.
That may have to do with a looser approach in this rebuilding phase of the Rockets or it could just be part of the culture in this youth movement that is being led by the four 19-year-old draft additions on the roster this season.
“One of the themes for this year is that this group should really enjoy each other and have fun,” Stone said during the first media session to open the start of training camp this week. “I totally intend to have fun.”
Does that mean to expect a lot of wins this season? Probably not. But there shouldn’t be a dull moment as we watch 19-year-old No.2 overall pick Jalen Green develop along with his peers Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher and Usman Garuba. The front office is attempting to fuse these four with a mixed group that includes budding superstar Christian Wood, talented second-year combo guard Kevin Porter, Jr., KJ Martin, Jae’Sean Tate for a super talented young core to go along with veterans such as Eric Gordon, David Nwaba, D.J. Augstin and Danuel House, Jr.
Gone is the pressure to win now with last season’s departures of superstars James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Now, the process of rebuilding can begin in earnest.
Recently, the entire team took the annual trip to the Bahamas to begin the bonding process that will be so important as the team gets set to embark on the 2021-22 season.
House believes the old and young players will all blend together just fine.
“Of course we have the 19-year-olds, the younger guys but they do a good job and we don’t talk about age,” House said. “We don’t really care too much about age. It’s a job that we all have to come here and make sure get things done, good, bad or ugly.”
Here are some things to watch for as we enter into this season of the re-launched Rockets.
How good can Jalen Green be?
Green, who comes to the Rockets after a stint with the G League Ignite, makes no qualms about it. He wants to be a superstar in the NBA. The talented shooting guard was openly disappointed he wasn’t taken No.1 overall in July’s NBA Draft so his sights are now on winning Rookie of the Year. What will be interesting to see is how hard Green will work to achieve his goals. The plan seems to be to position Green as the front man. But with Green’s thin frame, it may be a while before he is the player the Rockets want him to be or before he is the player Green thinks he will be.
What will the Rockets do with John Wall?
It’s no secret that both sides have come to an agreement that it’s in the best interest of both parties to seek a trade for the veteran point guard. The problem is Wall still has two years and $91.7 million due on the contract the Rockets inherited in last season’s trade with Washington for Russell Westbrook. Few teams are in a position to absorb such a contract for an aging player who just came off a serious knee injury. A buyout doesn’t seem to be a realistic option at this point, so the plan is for Wall to just sit and help the young core of players grow.
What will the Rockets backcourt look like?
Sure, the Rockets could put forth a respectable backcourt with Eric Gordon at shooting guard and Wall at the point. But with the organization’s eyes toward the future, the plan is to build around the youthful backcourt of Kevin Porter, Jr. and Green. The two had a connection even before the Rockets drafted Green in July. Now the question is how will they mesh together? Green is an exciting player who should be able to score the ball in multiple ways. Porter, a second-year player, is moving into a fulltime ball-handling role for the first time in his NBA career. Porter believes he is a natural facilitator but may find out it’s one thing to create for others as a shooting guard or small forward and it’s another as the primary point guard.