The Houston Rockets started their 2023-24 season with their annual Media Day. During today's event, we heard from Rafael. Stone, Ime Udoka, Jalen Green, Fred VanVleet, Jabari Smith, Dillon Brooks, Jock Landale, Jeff Green, Cam Whitmore, JaeSean Tate, Amen Thompson, and Boban Maronvich.
Kevin Porter Jr. will not be part of the team in any capacity
The first thing that General Manager Rafael Stone spoke on was the ongoing Kevin Porter Jr. situation. Here is Stone's statement.
“The allegations against him are deeply troubling.
I informed his representatives that he could not be a part of the Houston Rockets. He has not been with the team or around the team or had any interactions with the team since that time and will not be at the Media Day today or training camp.”
It is evident that Porter Jr. will never play again for the Rockets or possibly anyone else in the NBA. The Rockets have made it a point to say that the league is handling the matter and distancing themselves from Porter Jr. while it makes its decision.
Rockets want to be known as a defensive team
Almost every person that came to the podium, including Coach Udoka, spoke about defense. The Rockets have been at the bottom of the rankings regarding defense, and with the additions of VanVleet and Brooks, Houston is hoping to change that.
I asked VanVleet about his defense, as he has been one of the better defensive guards the last few seasons, even though he has flown under the radar.
"The first step would just be getting us in the right spot. We got some supreme athletes and guys that can make incredible plays. Getting our system getting us in the right spot and being ahead rather thats watching film or game planning, just being ahead of the play.”
Brooks, of course, is known for his defensive ability, as he made the All-Defensive Team for the first time in his career last year. Brooks spoke about what he brings to the court and how he gets into opposing players' heads when matching up with them.
"I am just a competitor. I love to compete at a high level, and I just feel like a lot of guys just want to play in their bubble. I do everything to get into a player's head to make them tired."
Brooks is the lockdown defender the Rockets have needed for a long time. He will guard the other team's best wing or guard and bring a toughness the Rockets have lacked for the last few seasons. As I mentioned earlier, almost every player made it a point to mention defense, as the Rockets want to make that the focus of the team going into 2023-24.
Player development is no longer the main priority
Another theme for today was the Rockets players and coaches knowing that the days of being happy with development are long gone. From Coach Udoka to Amen Thompson, every person was focused on wins next season. No one wanted to commit to an exact win total, but everyone agreed that losing was no longer acceptable.
The Rockets did not bring in Brooks and VanVleet to finish at the bottom of the standings again. Will it lead to their first playoff birth in three seasons? It is hard to say because the teams that made the playoffs last year have gotten better, and even teams like the Spurs are not going backward, so it will be an uphill climb to get into the Play In.
Even with that said, the Rockets should, at the very least, be a 30-35-win team. If everything breaks right and they gel early, they may even crack the 40-win mark. As I said earlier, losing will not be accepted, and the organization expects an improvement over the last few seasons.