During an interview with the Houston Chronicle's , Harden didn't dance around his expectations for the Rockets leading into next season.
“We did some good things last year, and I think adding Dwight really makes us contenders for a title,” Harden told Creech. “I know it will take a lot of hard work, but we have a lot to work with.”
Superman's arrival no doubt makes the Rockets better...on paper. The Los Angeles Lakers were once teeming with title hopes after Howard joined the squad, then went on to barely make the playoffs. Harden's championship tune sounds like the same song from a different player.
Houston isn't Los Angeles and Harden isn't Kobe Bryant, but there's no guarantee the Rockets emerge as contenders out of the gate. Harden himself even admits it "will take a lot of hard work" to get there so soon.
Assuming Howard and Harden click in ways that the star center, Kobe and the rest of the Lakers never could, the Rockets should rattle off more than the 45 victories they notched last season. But that doesn't mean they'll be contenders either.
This pairing could work. The Rockets could play really well together, but they could still fall short.
Plenty of other teams in the Western Conference deepened their pool of talent this offseason.
The Los Angeles Clippers brought in dangerous floor-spacers in J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, and a premier coach in Doc Rivers, while the Memphis Grizzlies added Mike Miller to a conference finals-caliber roster. The Golden State Warriors brought in Andre Iguodala and the Minnesota Timberwolves spent some serious coin on Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer and Chase Budinger. Last time I checked, the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs were no slouches either.
Translation: The West is good—ridiculously good.
Winning 50 or more games in a conference as bottomless as this doesn't always amount to title contention. Feel free to ask the Denver Nuggets or Clippers. They'll tell you.
James Harden would still have us believe Houston will contend and he may be right. Iron Man could have that effect. Or Harden could be incredibly wrong.
Life in the Western Conference is fickle like that.