Kobe Bryant Challenge for the Houston Rockets

James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) /

What is the boldest goal for the Houston Rockets as a team to accomplish?

Los Angeles Lakers legend, Kobe Bean Bryant, has a reputation for his unparalleled work ethic.

The 39-year-old has kept quite busy since retiring in 2016. Kobe has a multi-level company called Kobe Inc and he has created short films through his Canvas City project. Recently, the future Hall of Famer has been handing out challenges to NBA stars on Twitter.

Kobe told DeMar DeRozan to revive an old friendship from his childhood and challenged Isaiah Thomas to make All-NBA First Team.

Giannis Antetokounmpo tweeted Kobe, pondering where his challenge was, to which Kobe responded with the highest individual honor of all.

MVP https://t.co/cjmWH5Mqyz

— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) August 27, 2017

It’s unknown why Kobe Bryant has handed out various challenges to a few of his former colleagues, but it makes for good conversation as we approach the beginning of training camp.

And it got me thinking, what would be a proper challenge for the Houston Rockets? The team out performed expectations last season, winning 55 games an executing one of the most high-octane offenses that this league has ever seen.

After acquiring a legendary facilitator in Chris Paul and securing defensive fixtures in P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute, the Rockets will have big expectations for the upcoming season.

That leaves us with the following challenge: Win an NBA Championship.

In any season, winning an NBA title is a challenging goal, but it will be especially difficult this year. Not only are the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors arguably the best team ever, but the West is deeper than ever.

The Thunder upgraded its roster with Paul George and Patrick Patterson and Minnesota added Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson. The Spurs haven’t gone anywhere either and the Western Conference is shaping up to be an iron clad clash at the top.

What will it take for the Rockets to win a championship?

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The Golden State Warriors are the obvious favorites to represent the West in the NBA Finals. But that doesn’t mean that a fourth consecutive Finals trip is imminent for the Warriors. Injuries, locker room controversy, or matching up poorly with another team can derail any franchises’ championship hopes.

For the Rockets to compete for a ring, there two superstars have to be on top of their games. James Harden and Chris Paul will be the engines that make Houston’s train go. If Houston’s “elite” backcourt doesn’t pan out, the Rockets don’t have a chance at winning a title.

Assuming that chemistry won’t become an issue, the Rockets have to become a better defensive team. Last season, the Rockets finished 18th in defensive rating and just 23rd in opponents field goal percentage. Paul, Mbah a Moute and Tucker will certainly contribute to Houston’s defensive efforts, but the team as a whole has to commit on defense.

Next: James Harden on the Golden State Warriors: We’re Right There

Offensively, a repeat of last season should suffice. The Rockets were first in points per game, second in 3-pointers made a game and second in free-throws made per game. Houston perfectly embodies Mike D’Antoni‘s modern offensive philosophy of prioritizing 3-pointers and layups. Look for Houston’s field goal and 3-point percentage to increase with Chris Paul in tow. He’ll relieve some of Harden’s offensive burden, ideally making him and the others more efficient.