Franchise player James Harden believes the Rockets have already shown better chemistry as they head into training camp on Saturday, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. Harden admits that many of the team’s problems last season could be blamed on a lack of harmony but that has changed, Feigen continues. “We’re doing something I haven’t (experienced) since I’ve been here in Houston,” Harden told Feigen. “Just trying to shake things up, just trying to make sure we really know each other in and out on and off the court. I think that will translate to a better team.” That improved camraderie was evident in mini-camps and workouts that Harden organized, Feigen adds. Along with team bonding, Harden has been focused on avoiding a repeat of last season, when the Rockets went .500 and were knocked out in the opening round of the playoffs after reaching the Western Conference Finals the previous season. “I’ve been training all summer,” Harden said. “Last season wasn’t great at all. It was very disappointing. I don’t want to let that happen two years in a row. I’ve been in the gym working out to get my mind, body and soul right.”
In other developments regarding the Rockets:
- Harden says that signing restricted free agent Donatas Motiejunas is “very important,” Feigen relays in a tweet. There’s not much going regarding the impasse between the Rockets and Motiejunas, a source told Feigen (Twitter link). The power forward has not received a serious offer from the club, according to his agent, B.J. Armstrong. Motiejunas does not want to sign the $3.4MM qualifying offer the Rockets have made. The Pistons rescinded a deal with the Rockets at the trade deadline in February when Motiejunas failed a physical because of lingering back problems.
- The team plans to sign point guards Gary Payton II, Isaiah Taylor and Bobby Brown and power forward Kyle Wiltjer on Thursday or Friday, Feigen added in the same tweet regarding the lack of progress with Motiejunas’ contract talks. Those contracts are likely to to be two-year deals, according to Feigen. Payton II, Taylor and Wiltjer are undrafted rookies who agreed to deals shortly after the draft. Brown, who hasn’t played in the NBA since 2010, agreed in July to attend the Rockets’ camp.