HOUSTON - James Harden hit the practice court with his new team Monday afternoon and wasted little time making his presence felt. He told his teammates to tuck in their shirts and get to work. He set the tone by running wind sprints with the losing team during drills, regardless of the side he was on. He showed off the skills that have helped him become one of the elite offensive players in the game today.
And with that, a new age of Rockets basketball was officially launched.
Monday’s workout capped a whirlwind 48 hours for the 23-year-old shooting guard, who went through a spirited practice session with his new teammates – and a pair of familiar faces as well in Cole Aldrich and Daequan Cook, who also landed in Houston as part of Saturday night’s mega trade involving the Rockets and Thunder.
Yet Harden hardly seemed phased by all the recent upheaval, instead appearing right at home in his new digs, picking up plays and his teammates with the ease and intensity of an experienced player who knows what it takes to win at the highest levels the game has to offer.
“That’s my job,” said Harden after he finished an extra half hour of shooting drills following practice. “Wherever I’m at I’m going to bring energy.
“I have to show how hard I work for other guys to come along. I wasn’t going to come in here today yelling. I just said, ‘Let’s go to work.’”
His teammates received the message loud and clear. Jeremy Lin noted the practice session felt like day one of training camp due to all the added energy and enthusiasm in the gym. And as for playing alongside his new running mate, the Rockets’ point guard described it as “easy.”
“I think, for him, he’s just about making the right play,” Lin said of Harden. “Any time you have that it’s just very simple. You can come out and attack, attack, make the right play and the ball will find everybody.”
Earlier Monday, Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey announced that the team waived Jon Brockman, Gary Forbes, Lazar Hayward, JaJuan Johnson and Shaun Livingston, meaning undrafted rookie point Scott Machado will be on the Rockets’ opening night roster. Machado’s inclusion capped quite an offseason for the Iona product, and though he said he was not surprised to make the squad, the significance of the achievement was certainly not lost on him.
“I feel like this is a true blessing,” he said. “I feel like it’s something I always wanted. I’ve just been working hard and trying to get to where I want to go and I finally made it so it feels real good.”
What was surprising to the rookie from Brazil, however, was a Saturday evening phone call he received from Jeremy Lin.
“The day that the trade happened, J-Lin called me – he called me by mistake, thinking that I was Jeremy Lamb – and said, ‘Hey, man, I apologize for whatever happened. Everything is going to be fine.’ And I was like, ‘Hey, it’s Scott – it’s not Jeremy. Did you hear something about me?’”
Realizing his mistake, Lin apologized profusely, putting Machado’s mind at ease after a few tense moments in what goes down as one of the finest unintended acts of rookie hazing in recent memory.