One of the most important pieces of a championship contender is the confidence, optimism and faith of its stars. They must believe in the cause. They must buy in.
They are the leaders the rest of the team can look to when the chips are down or injuries and losses pile up more quickly than anticipated, and they are also the prime candidates for emulation with their off-court habits and work ethic.
No one can deny that the Rockets will go as far as Dwight Howard and James Harden can take them. To hear them speak with such confidence and even a touch of swagger at today's media day was both encouraging and exciting.
Harden is already beaming with excitement at tomorrow's start of training camp, saying, "I think tomorrow is the beginning of something special here in Houston," and hopes the hard work in the preseason pays off with ring.
"If we stay healthy, I feel we have a very legitimate shot at winning it all."
Howard reiterated those same feelings almost verbatim, "If we stay healthy, we have a great shot at a championship," and punctuated that by discussing his own measures to keep up his part of the bargain.
"I took some time off of the game this summer to get focused mentally on how to be a better leader, a better teammate and to be better for the city. I'm eating right and sleeping right."
Howard also sounded excited about GM Daryl Morey mostly keeping the team intact, which he believes will aide in team chemistry.
"I'm super excited on having our core back. We want to grow and take this team to another level. If we're on the same page, we'll be unstoppable."
"I think this season is going to be really special for us. Off the court, guys have really come together."
Continuing to stay on the same page, Harden and Howard both also believe that the one main roster change that did happen could end up being the most important part of the off season.
In speaking of point guard Ty Lawson, Harden expressed that he's excited to play off the ball more, which should help him be more efficient, while he also went on to praise Lawson for his work ethic, saying Lawson is in the gym "at all hours, even at night."
Naturally, Howard agrees. "He can add a combination to our team that we greatly needed. Pat has the defense and Ty can really drive and do things on the offensive end."
This type of unified message and organization-wide united front can only happen from the top down. The superstars have faith in the organization and its culture and the organization has the faith in its superstars to carry the message.
Just yesterday, Daryl Morey spoke of the importance of continuity and chemistry to the Houston Chronicle.
"If you look historically, championship teams have two or three elite-level players, and they're usually together for a bit. I expect this group to be together for a while."
He also planted the seed for the optimism permeating the organization right now.
"This is the first time I feel like, without any changes, we're good enough to win it."
There is, however, plenty of work left to be done to turn this season's expectation into reality, which Morey also recognizes, and it's also his attitude of hard work that trickles down to the players.
"We have big goals this year. We had a good team dinner last night. Guys are focused, and coach is ready to bust their ass."
Two superstars. Better health. A new point guard. And organization-wide attitude and commitment to a culture of winning. Howard really feels like this is the year they put it all together.
"We've got a chance to do something special. That's the only thing that's been on our mind. We believe."