Why the Rockets Are Equipped to Handle the Spotlight Shifting to Howard
When the Rockets signed Jeremy Lin and traded for James Harden, they became the team's marketable superstars. Neither was exactly a proven commodity on the floor, but at least Lin brought Linsanity and Harden brought the beard. By the end of last season, Harden had more than proven he was ready to be an elite-level player. Lin was improving but didn't come close to matching Harden's exploits.
Lin has received quite a bit of criticism -- some fair and some not -- despite the fact that he was one of the young faces of the franchise. After Harden's performance last year, the emergence of Chandler Parsons both as a player and as a personality off the floor, and now the addition of Dwight Howard, things have changed dramatically. Those signs that used to have Harden and Lin now have Harden with Howard and the tagline "H"-Town.
The good news is that, by all accounts, this is the right team to handle the transition in both the style of play and the focus from one would-be star to one who is already established.
One of the great things about this Rockets roster is how young they are, the addition of Marcus Camby notwithstanding. Clearly, the Rockets are going to try and add veterans to compliment the young nucleus, but it has become obvious that the core of the roster is set and the players are in control. In many cases, this would be a bad thing, but not for this squad.
In Parsons, you have a levelheaded, smart guy who likes to keep everyone together. The same can be said of Howard. Harden is a hard worker who's soft-spoken and leads by example. Lin is similar. The blend of those personalities seems almost perfect, particularly since they have developed relationships off the floor that will strengthen the ones on it.
In some ways, the current group of players are more like a college team than a professional one. You get the sense that had the Texans not experienced the debacle of the letterman's jackets, these guys might have tried it on for size. It is what will allow them to build a close-knit locker room and develop the kind of culture the team hasn't had since Hakeem Olajuwon was at center.
The best part is that none of these guys is desperate for the spotlight. It could be argued that you need guys who crave it, but I don't think not wanting to be on the front page of TMZ every day makes you not want to win. In fact, I suggest that their focus off the floor -- no one was Tweeting or Instagramming his workouts in L.A. -- mirrors the focus on it. They want to win first and admire themselves later.
At this point, there is spotlight to be shared and it appears evident, at least for the moment, this roster is not only aware of it, but they are relishing it. If they have a lot of success early, it will be interesting to see if there are cracks in the veneer, but for now, all of the young players assembled by Daryl Morey look like they're ready to take the center stage as a unit, and that's encouraging.