Houston Rockets: James Harden Sets The Tone Early

By Michael Ma

Sep 27, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) and center Dwight Howard (12) pose for a picture during media day at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

James Harden was the first one in the gym Saturday morning as the Houston Rockets kicked off training camp. While Harden has never been known to be a vocal teammate, he’s taken the obligation of becoming a team leader, through his actions.

“I’m just trying to set a tone,” Harden said, “set a tempo for the younger guys and even the veterans on what we need to do to be good this year.”

In an off-season where Harden stated he wants to become the best player in the NBA, his early actions have indicted that he has the desire. Dwight Howard notices his business-first approach.

“[Harden] ran the floor hard and pushed himself to the limit and as a leader that’s what you have to do,” said Howard. “Me and him, we’re on the same page and we understand what we have to do as leaders of this team. We’re going to push everybody to the limit.”

That’s a revelation to hear as the Rockets lacked that leadership and locker room voice a season ago. Now, with Harden breaking out to become a superstar in the league, along with the addition of Howard, the Rockets find themselves with 2 leaders to look up to.

With that label, Howard understands the importance of pushing his new teammates to make himself better.

“Right now we can’t think about being comfortable,” Howard stated. “We’ve got to think about how hard we can push each other to get better. That’s going to be the key. We don’t have time to be comfortable. When we start playing, teams are going to be at our neck and that’s what we have to do every day at practice: we have to be at each other’s neck to push each other and make each other better.”

There’s absolutely no time to be comfortable with the mindset of championship aspirations. The Rockets have made that their expectation as they broke their opening huddle with the chant of, “One, Two, Three, Championship!”