Youth Is Served

HOUSTON - Media day is for optimists. It is in fact perhaps the only day, in NBA circles at least, dedicated primarily to those who view the world through rose-colored glasses and drink only from chalices deemed to be half-full. On media day, all 30 teams publicly love their players, scoff at the doubters and harbor dreams (and delusions) of grandeur.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. This is the time of year when hope should reign supreme. Every team sits side-by-side in the standings at 0-0, opening up an infinite number of scenarios for how things might unfold in the future. Who knows what the future holds? Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift – that is why it is called the present. Yep, that bit of wisdom comes courtesy of a weekend viewing of Kung Fu Panda. You’re welcome.

Yet who knows the inherent truth hidden within such fairy tale talk better than Jeremy Lin does? Last year during Media Day in Houston he was largely an afterthought, dutifully making the rounds at Toyota Center with nary a media horde to be seen. Fewer than ten months later, no Rockets player is more in demand thanks to his meteoric ascension to international superstardom. Hope comes in many forms and Lin’s tale represents just the latest and greatest representation of what can happen when hard work, dedication and a willingness to dream meet the right opportunity. Who, then, is fit to say what can or can’t happen to any team or player over the coming months?

With that lighthearted preamble (hopefully) providing some context to what media day is all about, the Rockets embarked upon their own unique version of the event by double-dipping at both the House of Blues and the Comcast SportsNet Houston studios Monday morning, intertwining the serious and the silly (the Chandler Parsons pic accompanying this story pretty much says it all) during the annual media extravaganza.

It’s no secret that the new-look Rockets are entering training camp with a multitude of questions that need answering, so one after another the players and coaches took their turns tackling some of the topics sure to loom large between now and the start of the regular season on Halloween. What follows is a sampling of some of the responses provided:

On what would make this a successful season?

Kevin McHale: “We’ve got to try to make the playoffs- that’s our goal. You can’t do anything special in our league until you become one of the final 16 teams playing in April. Inside that, we’ve got to get better every month … But our goal is to try to win as many basketball games as it takes to try to put ourselves in position to make the playoffs. That’s going to be a helluva challenge but I told the guys that we’ve got to find a way to get that done.”

On the big picture pursuit of an impact player:

General Manager Daryl Morey: “Radical notion, we’re looking for impact players … For us to make the playoffs, we need the guys on our roster now — and we have a lot of young players — to emerge as an impact player. A lot of them have that ability. I think ability is pretty common in the league. Whether they can turn around and do it, that’s the question.

“Each of the guys we brought in has a unique skill and are pretty elite in ability in some area. But can they put it all together and help us win a game and can they round out their games? That’s what we’re going to find out, which of the young guys emerge into an impact player. Hopefully, more than one, but right now, we’ll take one and go from there.

“You need to have at least one elite player to make the playoffs in this league. In fact the evidence for that is overwhelming. This year we have a lot of uncertainty and a lot of that uncertainty is by design that makes it very difficult for the coaching staff, but the hope is that with all that uncertainty and all the players we have on the roster who have talent and could emerge, that we get one of those impact players and from there we can build around that.”

On what the team’s approach should be:

Jeremy Lin: “I think the thing we need to do is respect everybody who’s in the league and everyone who’s talented and really, really good, but at the same time have confidence in ourselves and understand we may be young and may have less experience but with that comes our positives and strengths which are quickness, speed and athleticism and we’re going to try to rely on our strengths and ride that through.”

On how much better his game can get:

“A lot. If you think about it, I’ve played 50 career games. For me, I see it as just the beginning. I’m very young in terms of learning and everyday I make a lot of mistakes in practice, so as I continue to cut down on those and grow my game hopefully I’ll be able to evolve as a player.”

On the chemistry of this young team:

Chandler Parsons: “It almost feels like we’re an AAU team. I’m carpooling with the guys to practice, we’re all going to team dinners, we’re doing things that I did with my college teammates which is cool because that’s how you create chemistry on the court. We’re all so close in age and … we like the same interests off the court so I think that’s really going to help our game on the court. When we comes to games and to practice, we’re playing with our friends; it’s not just because we have to but because we genuinely like each other.”

On what makes Jeremy Lin special:

“He’s just an unbelievable person. Everything he got last year, he never once asked for. He’s so humble and just the way he carries himself, I have the utmost respect for him. He just took advantage of his opportunity and got all that exposure and never once wanted it and never once did anything to bring it more. He just worked extremely hard and played well. He’s just a very humble guy and just the way he carries himself I think guys embrace that and respect that, want to be around it and love the fact he’s in Houston with us.”

On wiping the slate clean and a new beginning:

Kevin Martin: “It feels good. I feel refreshed. I had a great summer working out. With Coach McHale, we’ll leave last year behind us. To me it’s just what happens on the basketball court. I want to get out there and play to the best of my abilities. I’m very excited for the season.”