• With the core changing in Houston, James Harden has remained as the constant at the center of everything the Rockets do. That goes for both the good and the bad.

    Speaking with NBA.com’s Lang Whitaker, Harden talked about D’Antoni’s system, the team’s defensive reputation and touched on his new teammates.

    Harden said that he’s been watching tape of D’Antoni-run teams and is eager to get going. While scoring didn’t seem to be the problem in Houston it’s hard to deny that D’Antoni knows how to coach up an offense. While we won’t see the return of Seven Seconds or Less, there could be some seriously fun nights for the Rockets. Harden also said that his new coach is prepared to get things clicking already; not just for The Beard but for new acquisitions Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon as well.

    As far as those new guys, Harden had an interesting take: their arrival will allow him to better exert himself on defense this year. The logic here is that they’ll take some of the offensive burden away from Harden, meaning he can save some energy for the other end of the floor. While it’s nice that he’s talking about a commitment to both sides of the game, we’ll believe it when we see it. Gordon and Anderson are hardly good defenders in their own right, and even if Harden sees a drop in usage it’ll be hard for the Rockets to work with three bad defensive guys on the floor at any given time.

    To be fair to Harden, he did lead the league in minutes played and had a sky high usage rate. It just doesn’t seem like the new arrivals will help him out all that much.

    The Rockets have an entirely new coaching staff so it’s certainly possible to see some defensive uptick in the aggregate if not on an individual level. They have Memphis’ former defensive coach Jeff Bzdelik in the fold now and while it’s always tough to separate the coaching from the personnel, it’s hard to argue with his track record.

    One thing to note from the interview is Harden’s repeated mention of preparation. While it’s not an outright shot at previous coaching staffs, it does seem to be something that wasn’t necessarily emphasized.

    Coming off a listless year, the Rockets will take any improvement they can get.

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