The Houston Rockets this offseason/training camp/preseason have dropped plenty of hints that they are not the same team that ended the season just a year ago.
The Rockets walked off the court in Oakland knowing that everything had to change if they wanted to compete and be a better team. They brought in pieces to fit the superstar in which Houston's top brass invested, and James Harden rewarded them with taking another step in his game.
The step Harden took wasn't to become a better shooter or a better defensive player, but it looks like he's become a better leader.
Harden stepped up and organized team workouts in the summer. It wasn't just to get a head start on a system none of them have played in yet, but also to develop chemistry.
During training camp, the team looked to be having fun; it didn't seem like work. In the first three games of the preseason, the Rockets scored 130 points or more twice and 123 points against the Pelicans last night in Shanghai.
Basketball is fun again.
So many times last year, amid all the turmoil, it did not seem like the team was having fun at all. It became a grind, and, when that happened, everything else started to fall off.
Chemistry isn't something that you can just flip a switch and have, it's something that takes a while to build. The Rockets of 2016 have taken serious steps to make sure that won't be an issue this year.
On top of the offseason workouts, now Rockets are in the middle of a week-long trip to China to play the New Orleans Pelicans (twice) in the NBA's global games. The chemistry they started will continue growing as the team will spend nearly every minute together while in China.
It's easy to scoff at the high-scoring performances and say "oh it's just preseason," but when you look at the numbers, the Rockets are moving the ball like they have never done before. The ball movement stems Harden having trust in his teammates to make the right pass or to hit the open shot.
Just three preseason games in, but now after this trip from China concludes we could be looking at one of the most tight-knit Rockets teams in recent history.