Today marks one of the most exciting days on the NBA calendar — the first day of training camp.
The Rockets, along with all 29 other teams, will begin their official preparation for the 2020-21 season, set to kick off December 22.
After a swift but shaky offseason, the Rockets have made some changes to the roster as they look to take charge of what could be one of their final years in a championship window with James Harden and Russell Westbrook on the roster.
For a deeper analysis about this year’s team heading into training camp, check out the latest episode of the Harden My Take Podcast.
Stick with The Dream Shake for player analysis write-ups throughout training camp.
Here’s a few things you need to know:
Sterling Brown - signed for one-year, guaranteed veteran’s minimum contract
Bruno Caboclo - signed two-year contract with a team option for 2021-22
Chris Clemons - contract becomes fully guaranteed Feb. 27, 2021
DeMarcus Cousins - signed one-year, non-guaranteed contract
Jerian Grant - signed one-year contract, terms undisclosed
Gerald Green - signed one-year, non-guaranteed contract
Danuel House Jr.
Mason Jones - signed two-way contract
KJ Martin - signed four-year rookie contract
Trevelin Queen - signed training camp contract
Jae’Sean Tate - signed three-year, partially-guaranteed contract
Brodric Thomas - signed training camp contract
Christian Wood - signed three-year contract
Kenny Wooten - claimed off waivers from Knicks, two-way contract
James Harden and Russell Westbrook are Rockets — for now
The Rockets offseason was dominated by rumors and headlines that Harden and Westbrook are unhappy with the direction of the franchise and that the pair have each requested to be traded by the Rockets.
Russell Westbrook wishes to return to his “floor general” role in an offense similar to the one he had in Oklahoma City, and James Harden wants to maximize his chances at a title by playing for the Brooklyn Nets, where he’d play with Kyrie Irving and former teammate Kevin Durant.
The Rockets are prepared to be “uncomfortable” and don’t wish to trade either of the supposedly disgruntled stars, both of whom have two years left on their contract.
New GM Rafael Stone is unprepared to trade either star player without getting equal value, which he hasn’t been offered in a trade.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported two weeks ago that the team was not talking to teams about James Harden, but were discussing the idea to moving Westbrook to other teams.
.@wojespn says the Rockets have engaged in Russell Westbrook trade discussions, but not James Harden ones.— Salman Ali (@SalmanAliNBA) November 24, 2020
Says Houston getting both Harden and Westbrook back in training camp is more likely than Westbrook getting moved. pic.twitter.com/7XfewGMjgu
Small ball is no longer
You can kiss goodbye to the Pocket Rocket experiment, Red Nation. While the team might play small ball occasionally, it will no longer be the team’s bread and butter and only lineup configuration on offense.
The death of small ball became official when the team signed Christian Wood to a 3-year, $41 million contract on the first night of free agency. Wood is the biggest signing of the offseason for the Rockets and was one of the top bigs on the free agent market.
Last season, Wood averaged 13.1 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game, both career-bests.
At 6’10”, Wood is a traditional big but can also space the floor, allowing him to fit in offenses both styled by Harden and Westbrook.
The team also took a flier on former All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, signing a one-year non-guaranteed deal with the team. The Rockets have not officially announced his signing but it is expected that he will report to training camp and compete for minutes at the five. Cousins has not played in the NBA since the 2019 NBA Finals.
The bench will look very different
Austin Rivers (Knicks) and Jeff Green (Nets) both reside in the Big Apple now and with Robert Covington (Trail Blazers) heading out west in a trade with Portland, the wing rotation will also look different.
Green’s role in the offense could be usurped by the aforementioned Cousins or former Knicks two-way forward Kenny Wooten, who was claimed off waivers last month.
The main beneficiary of Rivers’s vacated role is to be determined with several candidates in line for more minutes.
New signees Jerian Grant and Sterling Brown each signed on for the veteran’s minimum, Chris Clemons remains from last season’s roster and undrafted free agent Mason Jones signed a two-way contract.
The likeliest of the bunch to get these minutes is Grant, as he has the most NBA experience at the point guard position. However, Brown, Clemons and Jones will push him for those backup PG minutes.
The youth movement is back
After fielding one of the oldest rosters in the league for years, the Rockets got younger this offseason by adding eight players 25 or younger.
Some will likely only be around for training camp like undrafted rookies Trevelin Queen (23) and Brodric Thomas (23), but some are in for the long haul.
Mason Jones (22) and Kenny Wooten (22) occupy the two-way contracts for the team and will be able to dress for up to 50 of the Rockets’ 72 games this season.
KJ Martin (19) and Jae’Sean Tate (25) each signed multi-year deals.
Christian Wood (25) and Sterling Brown (25) should each factor into a lot of minutes for the team this season.
This training camp is all about learning the new system
Nine NBA teams are going into this season with new head coaches, but the one team with probably the most dynamic change is the Houston Rockets.
After accustoming themselves to Mike D’Antoni’s offense for the past four seasons, Stephen Silas and his new coaching staff will look to replicate their top-efficient offense that Silas helped create with the Dallas Mavericks last season.
While the Rockets will continue to have a high three-point volume and create a lot of spacing, the team will look to create more pick-and-roll opportunities and have more off-ball movement.
If the Rockets can learn this new system on the fly with proficiency, they are going to remind teams the hard way that they can still be one of the most dangerous teams in the league.