Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard poses during media day at the Toyota Center. (Troy Taormina, USA TODAY Sports)
Howard and fellow star James Harden already display more chemistry than he had with Kobe Bryant
Dwight Howard's time on the Toyota Center podium was done, the newest Houston Rockets star having spent nearly 15 minutes giving a Cliffs-notes version of his wild offseason to a room full of news reporters while detailing the many ways in which they would contend for the crown.
Then in walked James Harden, the resident catalyst for this monumental makeover who -- to the shock of no one -- is still sporting that black and bushy beard that has been his trademark for so long now.
"Moses!" Howard yelled to his co-star as they switched spots. "The leader of the Red Nation is going to part the Red Sea. Moses!"
And with that bit of insightful banter, an attempt at prophecy here at the unofficial start of the NBA season: this Howard and Harden pairing is going to work just fine.
As superstar duos go, Howard-Harden is such a better, healthier, and more natural tandem than Howard-Kobe Bryant that it makes you wonder why it took the big man so long to make up his mind in the first place. Say what you will about Howard and his sometimes-silly ways, the focus on fun that has come to irritate fans (and, no doubt, the ultra-serious Bryant himself), but there's something to be said for self awareness.
With nearly a decade of pro basketball behind him and a career arc that must go up this season lest his legacy be seriously damaged, 27-year-old Howard went with the team and the co-star that fit him and his personality. That much was clear during a Rockets media day that may as well have been a fraternity party at nearby University of Houston.
From Harden on down, this group of players -- Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and the rest -- will fit Howard and his style in the sort of way that the rest of the NBA should be concerned about. He'll play unburdened basketball Los Angeles Lakers fans never got to see, free from the dysfunctional dynamic that surrounded him last season and had so much to do with the vast personality differences between Howard and nearly everyone around him. It doesn't mean the Rockets will be there at the end, and I'd currently predict that they fall short of the Western Conference finals, but that has more to do with the powerful parity on their side of the league than the question of whether they will click.
"We're goofy; we have fun, but we like to work," said Harden, whose arrival last October via trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder started this whole Rockets renaissance. "We're not going to be all strict. We're young. We have to have fun...But when it's time to get serious, when it's time to win, we'll be focused.
"He's going to teach me some things that I don't know, and I'll teach him some things that he doesn't know. That's the kind of partnership and friendship we're going to have in order to be successful."