HOUSTON – Saturday was the first day of practice as another new era of Houston Rockets basketball begins, one that the team hopes will finally produce that elusive third championship they have been searching for since winning back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995.
The largest reason for the bold optimism is the addition of 2016-17 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook, who reunites with longtime, a childhood friend and former teammate in Oklahoma City, James Harden, who was the league MVP the season after Westbrook won his award.
Here’s what Westbrook had to say after his first practice.
What do you take away from today first practice?
“Just intense, good energy, moving in the right direction, feeling good about where we are. Obviously, it’s the first day, but get a chance to create some chemistry, some camaraderie and figure out the right things we need to figure out."
Is it easier to figure things out because you’ve been in this league for so long?
“Absolutely. Coaches put us in the right positions to be successful. Our job now is to be ready, be prepared, that’s all I can do.”
What do you think about their plan to ramp you up slowly (after offseason surgeries)?
“That’s good, because when I get going, you know I don’t stop. That’s good."
Is it just really fun to be back at a real practice (with James Harden) back on the same team again?
“Man, it’s just a blessing to go out on the floor with guys that want to compete, that want to win. Obviously, with people that you are familiar with is always a plus. But just to get out and start hooping again is a great thing for me and happy to be able to do it."
Do you already see a lot of players that are talkers, communicators?
“It’s big. You have a lot of vets, a lot of guys that know a lot of information. With that being said, everyone’s got to be open to listening, understanding, learning. That’s the best part of our team is that we are able to do that with the guys we have.”
What do you think about going on the road so quickly for two weeks to Hawaii and Japan?
“Well, I don’t like it because I’m going to miss my kids (laugh). Other than that, it’s good. I think it’s going to be big for our team, to be able to bond more. When you are on the road, I think it’s important to eat together, hang out, get a chance to know a little bit about your teammates off the court, which is most important, which is what I try to do. Get a chance to know where guys are from, their background, understand about their family, their upbringing. Because that shows you a lot about a person, about how they prepare, what they do before the game, who they play for, why they play. That’s the most important part.”