A great piece popped up on Basketball Insiders recently that discussed the Rockets' prospects for the season and also talked to both James Harden and GM Daryl Morey. But perhaps the most notable of all the quotes came from Houston point guard Patrick Beverley, who has huge expectations for both Harden and the Rockets this year.
Basketball Insider's Oliver Maroney asked Bev what he expects to see this season, and his response was succinct and to the point:
"MVP and leading us to the Finals. Simple... James is like a brother to me, so I've seen him improve each year with regards to being a leader."
Beverley isn't the only one expecting a major step forward from The Beard this year. Drew League founder Dino Smiley has noticed a change in Harden as well. Despite some well-publicized fan heckling, Harden has used the summer to get better across the board according to Smiley:
"He's much more assertive with his leadership and he's getting his team more involved. I must say, he's changed for the better. He's much more approachable and smiling more than ever. He's taking every possession seriously, and I mean on the defensive end as well. You can tell he's really working hard to improve the defensive parts of his game."
As for The Beard himself, he's using things like that heckling and his polarizing reputation in the media as motivation for the upcoming season. He sees the Rockets flying under the radar a bit and is using the sudden underdog status to get himself ready to prove the Harden haters wrong:
"People are definitely overlooking us, and we kind of have the underdog mindset, which is fine for us because we're going to work that much harder, come together even tighter, and we're all going to be on the same page. We'll let the chips fall where they may, but starting with this summer and into training camp, we're going to be all-in. We're going to have the same goal, and that's to win. We'll do whatever it takes."
GM Daryl Morey also offered his thoughts, and he sees the constant Harden hate as misguided and possibly even ignorant. And I don't disagree with him. I've mentioned multiple times this past year that Harden is somehow underrated, despite being hands down the best two-guard in the league and one of the most dominant offensive players on the planet. Morey told Basketball Insiders:
"He's only a polarizing figure to people who don't watch. Players voted him MVP (in 2014-2015) for a reason. He's had a winning team every season of his career, with Multiple Conference Finals appearances."
The only thing missing is a trip to the Finals, and if teammate and close friend Beverley is correct in his prediction, we won't have long to wait for that either. Check out the rest of the piece from Basketball Insiders here. It's some good reading amidst the tumbleweeds of the late-August NBA doldrums.