After five days on Galveston beach, the Houston Rockets completed their training camp on Saturday. Last season, Rockets training camp was awkward and uncomfortable as the team awaited James Harden and P.J. Tucker’s arrival. This season, Houston got ahead of any awkwardness by coming to an agreement with veteran guard John Wall. This led to an environment that was conducive to excitement, growth, and bonding as the Rockets integrate four 19-year-olds into their rotation.
Rockets Training Camp Takeaways
1. The starting lineup is set… kind of
As of right now, it seems the Rockets will start Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Christian Wood, and Daniel Theis. Obviously, Houston didn’t directly say this, but it was easy to piece together over the week of interviews. As of right now, the fifth starter is unknown. If I were a betting man, I’d say second-year forward Jae’Sean Tate is the favorite to start at small forward. However, the Rockets used Tate with both starting and bench units during training camp and experimented with several different positions.
“He’s gotten a lot better this summer with his quickness and strength,” said Stephen Silas on Tate. “He’s still working on his shot, which is improving. He’s so versatile that I really don’t want to put him in a box.”
Eric Gordon and Danuel House are also options to keep an eye on for this spot.
2. Alperen Sengun turned a lot of heads
By now, most Rockets fans have seen the reporting about rookie center Alperen Sengun dominating Houston’s final scrimmage. However, even before that, Sengun was drawing unprompted comparisons to 2021 MVP Nikola Jokic as training camp was unfolding. Obviously, it’s ridiculous to put those kinds of expectations on a 19-year-old, but by all accounts, he killed it during training camp. The organization has done a good job at accommodating his needs as he adjusts to life in a new country and his teammates really seem to be fond of him.
“He’s really like a seven-foot guard,” said rookie Josh Christoper of Sengun. “Playing with him is fun. He can make plays.”
At the minimum, Sengun has likely secured himself a consistent spot in Houston’s rotation this season.
3. Christian Wood assumes leadership role
After being one of the youngest players at the start of last season, it’s kind of crazy to say that 26-year-old Christian Wood has become a veteran for the Rockets. Wood is obviously one of the team’s most talented players, but he’s taken the extra step of becoming a vocal figure in the locker room. Throughout training camp, he’s made his voice felt and it’s clear that he embraces the opportunity to possibly be the star of the team.
“It’s a role that I think I have to step into and I think I’m ready for,” said Wood. “[Kevin Porter Jr.] is only 20. Jalen [Green] is young too. We have a young lineup and a young roster. I was the guy to have one of the most years and being one of the better guys on the team. So just being that leader, to show them where they are on the floor defensively and offensively.”
It’s certainly a new dynamic, but considering that there isn’t a current star on the team, the role of leader is there for Wood if he wants it. Obviously he’ll need to be a better defender and playmaker and we’ll see how he grows into that this year.
4. Eric Gordon looks like his old self
Throughout training camp, veteran guard Eric Gordon has been one of the most consistent performers. After missing 45 games last season, Gordon’s looked healthy, in shape, and ready to go for the new season. All summer, Gordon was talked about as a negative contract weighing down Houston’s books due to his age, injury history, and money owed. However, when healthy, Gordon is still one of the best role players in basketball and this season will be a nice proving ground for him.