Can the most talked about team in the off-season live up to the hype?
Unless you have been living on Mars for the past few months you would have heard that Dwight Howard has left the Los Angeles Lakers and joined the Houston Rockets.
But now the real acid test begins for Howard as he looks to rebuild his reputation on and off the court, after it has taken a battering over the past two seasons.
After his messy divorces from the Orlando Magic and the Lakers, Howard has developed a reputation for not playing well with others and digging his heels in when he does not get his own way.
However, there are no excuses now in Houston as he becomes a face of a franchise, alongside James Harden, and he has a coach who can guide and mentor him in former great Kevin McHale.
The All-Star centre plays his best when there is a lighter mood to the players around him, something that was not there often with the ‘win at all costs’ attitude of Kobe Bryant in LA.
Howard looks more relaxed this pre-season for the Rockets and, generally, his performances have reflected that with good contributions at both ends of the floor.
When heavily, with a back injury said to hampered him for much of last season, and happy, Howard is the best centre in the game now is his chance to remind everybody.
Howard’s arrival means McHale might have to change up his team’s previous playing style from the all-out run and gun that became their trademark last year.
As a result the cutting and slashing styles of Harden and Jeremy Lin might have to be reigned in a touch, but it should not affect them too much.
Harden took the step to outright superstar many thought he was capable of last year, and became a force at the offensive end.
Just because Houston landed Howard don’t expect them to stay out of the player market this season with fanatix tipping Omer Osik to be used a trade bait.
Osik would be fancied by several teams in the league wanting to strengthen their defence and rebounding, with the 27-year-old 7 footer one of the most underrated big men in the league.
But to get him, any team would have to have a stretch power forward they do not want to keep, making the Rockets’ choices limited, as a Osik/Howard front court is not possible for the long-run.
But if they can flip Osik for a piece they need and keep the likes of Chandler Parsons coming along, the ranking of fourth in the West might be too low.
Houston Rockets: 4th
Front court: 8.5
Back court: 8.5