Danuel House Is More Than 3-and-D for Title-Contending Houston Rockets

Maurice Bobb@@ReeseReportFeatured ColumnistDecember 2, 2019

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 14: Danuel House Jr. #4 of the Houston Rockets  reacts after making a three point basket  against the Utah Jazz during Game One of the first round of the 2019 NBA Western Conference Playoffs between the Houston Rockets and the Utah Jazz at Toyota Center on April 14, 2019 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Houston Rockets forward Danuel House Jr. knows a thing or two about The Amazing Spider-Man.

It's his son Danuel's favorite superhero.

That motion he makes every time he drills a game-breaking three-point shot?

It's a tribute to the little guy who runs around his house, shooting imaginary webs to immobilize criminals or swinging between New York City skyscrapers.

Not surprisingly, Spidey's signature move has become a staple in House's celebratory arsenal, and it's here to stay.

"I'm never going to let that go," House told Bleacher Report. "That celebration came from one day when I was telling my son to go to bed and he did the Spider-Man move to me. So I was like, 'Oh, no you didn't.' At the time, I was like, 'Boy, you need to go to bed.' But then I thought about it. Every time I get up in the morning, he'll do that.

"So I was like: 'OK, that's a celebration between me and him. That's the bond that we have.' So I just decided to take it out to the court to show my love back to him."

On a team like the Rockets, who lead the NBA in three-point shot attempts (869)—largely because of an unwavering devotion to modern analytics—House will have plenty of opportunities to deploy his web-shooters.

Case in point: when Houston hosted the Golden State Warriors on Nov. 6, the 6'7" swingman was in his bag, connecting on a season-high five three-pointers.

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Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta believed that House's potential as a player was "unlimited" based on last year's impressive but small sample size of elite athleticism and fearless forays into the lane, so he put his money where his mouth was and signed him to a three-year, $11.1 million deal over the summer.

Through 14 games, the versatile forward is averaging career highs in points (12.4), rebounds (4.6) and three-point percentage (44.4), among other career-best stats.

Only PJ Tucker has a higher shooting percentage (46.2) from behind the arc.

"I do believe that this will be a breakout year for me," House said. "I've been playing the right way, and that's been carrying me towards success. I just want to get better at everything, no matter what it is. I want to get better at shooting the ball, coming off the pick-and-roll and defending the ball. I just want to improve on all facets of my game."

House is hitting his stride at the right time, because the Rockets have needed a reliable three-and-D specialist to stretch the floor and defend at a high level since the departure of Trevor Ariza in 2018. But that alone doesn't define House's game.

"He's more than just a three-and-D guy, although he's really good at that," D'Antoni said. "That's probably what we need more than anything, but I think he can do a little bit of everything."

Brandon Dill/Associated Press

Outside of his energy and bounce, D'Antoni is also impressed with House's ability to make plays off the double-team and rebound the ball.

"I don't consider myself a typical three-and-D guy, because a three-and-D guy just guards and just shoots open threes," House said. "As you can see, sometimes James [Harden] trusts me enough to when the double-team comes, he throws it to me, and the team has enough faith in me to get downhill and make sure that I get the pass there to get an open shot or a look at the rim or a dunk.

"I think I play both sides of the ball. I'm going to guard well and make sure I help my teammates, rebound, make shots or make the right play, but also make sure I'm causing some type of disruption defensively."

This season, Houston's defensive rating is 108.4 (16th in the league), but when House is on the court with the first unit, that rating improves to 92.0.

He's also been a great defender on the perimeter, with a nonstop motor that allows him to effectively switch, close out on the ball and disrupt passing lanes.

In the Rockets' 117-94 win over the Chicago Bulls on Nov. 9, he had six steals with three triples as a cherry on top.

Additionally, House is a major part of why the Rockets' defensive rebounding has improved from 31.9 (29th) last year to 36.4 (10th) in 2019-20.

"He's been excellent," James Harden said. "He's been playing his butt off, knocking down shots, getting after it defensively. He's been here a few months and he's fit in. He's been very versatile for us.

"I was telling him: 'Just relax and go out there and have fun. Knock down your shots. Defensively, guard your man. Rebound the basketball and be athletic. Do the things that got you here.' And to this point he's done that, and he'll continue to do that."

Just 14 months ago, House was one of four final cuts in the preseason for the Warriors as they rounded out their 15-man roster.

Now, he's playing meaningful minutes and becoming a proven commodity in head coach Mike D'Antoni's system because he's establishing himself as a defensive ace and a marksman from deep.

He's hoisting 5.8 three-pointers per game and connecting on 2.6 of them.

That's a lot of web-slinging.

It shouldn't have taken this long for House to get a legitimate shot in the NBA.

The speed, the agility, the explosive athleticism? They were all there from the beginning.

But for House, from high school to college to the NBA, nothing has come easy.

"Looking back, I don't think teams missed anything," House said of his nomadic beginnings. "I think I've been the same way. I just needed to show it a little bit more often, and that was it. I think they were wondering, 'He has an NBA body and NBA game, but how consistent could he be?'"

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - APRIL 14: Danuel House #4 of the West Team drives against the East Team during the 2012 Jordan Brand All-American Classic at the Time Warner Cable Arena on April 14, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Gett
Ned Dishman/Getty Images

Coming out of Hightower High School (Missouri City, Texas) in 2012, he was the No. 19-ranked player on the ESPN 100 as a senior, which made him the sixth-best wing in his class and led to an invitation to play in the prestigious Jordan Brand Classic.

But in House's case, most of his notoriety came from playing against NBA pros with John Lucas Enterprises and the AAU circuit for coach/director Marland Lowe's Texas PRO team.

"Going into the summer of his senior year, he was unranked nationally," Lowe said. "But he kept working, showing his willpower and winning his way to the top. Danuel was always one of my most talented players. He is a winner. Once I saw him play, there was no doubt in my mind that all he needed to do was keep preparing for the opportunities that would come his way."

Before the end of his senior year, House had played himself into being a top high school player and had offers from Ohio State, Baylor, Texas, Georgetown and Kansas, but he chose the University of Houston.

He was a known commodity as a 5-star recruit, but the spotlight didn't exactly follow him to the Cougars.

When he committed to UH, he was the biggest prep prospect to sign up since the Phi Slama Jama years with Hall of Famers Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon.

House played two under-the-radar seasons with the Cougars before he transferred to Texas A&M, where a higher profile meant nationally televised games. "Where people could see me a little bit more," he said. "But by that time I'm older, and you know how it is. The clock is ticking against you."

In College Station, he averaged 14.8 points per game his junior year and 15.6 points per outing his senior year, which was capped by an unreal come-from-behind win in the 2016 NCAA tournament.

Down 12 points with 44 seconds remaining, the Aggies came back to defeat the Northern Iowa Panthers 92-88 in double-overtime to advance to the Sweet 16.

It was the biggest last-minute comeback in Division I collegiate men's basketball history.

House finished with 22 points, despite going scoreless until the 5:14 mark in the second half.

"That was a signature moment for me," House said. "I thought that game lifted me up. I thought it elevated me because it's college, and everybody watches March Madness. I felt like that was the game where I showed scouts that I may have started the game off rough, but I was still able to defend, rebound and get something going for my teammates and still be a good teammate, even when things were going bad for me."

And yet, he didn't hear Commissioner Adam Silver call his name on June 23.

"I was kind of shocked," House recalled. "Because if you look at the body of work that I was able to accomplish throughout my college career, I felt like I proved a lot. But I never got down on myself. I stayed consistent with my work ethic and true to my grind."

House then signed with the Washington Wizards after a strong summer league but was waived after playing just one game because of an injury to his right wrist.

From there, he bounced around from the NBA Development League's Delaware 87ers to the Rockets to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the rebranded G League to Phoenix Suns to the Northern Arizona Suns to the Warriors back to the Vipers and, finally, back to the Rockets.

"Going back to the G League was tough," House said. "But I'm a proud Houstonian, and growing up we never gave in. When people said we couldn't do it, we always found a way to do it. I believed in my game, and I continued to work. I just needed an opportunity."

Inspiration has to come from somewhere.

For House, it came from his father.

Danuel House Sr. had hoop dreams of his own, and when he would get off work as a dump truck driver for the City of Houston Public Works Department, he'd bring his son along as he went to different parks around Houston for pickup games.

"His nickname was Slim," House said. "Everybody knew him as Slim. They never knew my dad by his government name, and once they figured out that he was my dad, they would be like, 'Your daddy had game, boy.'"

Still wearing his standard-issue uniform and steel-toe work boots, House Sr. would test out the moves he'd seen his idol Michael Jordan perform on television.

"My dad was a hooper," House said. "So I used to go everywhere with him. My dad used to play basketball, even in his work boots, fresh off of work. He used to go to the park and wax them dudes up. It was just amazing to see how competitive he was and how good he was.

"It was like his love for the game was so contagious; he gave it to me."

House's game has become contagious too.

When he gets out into the open court, it's going to be a show.

With his above-the-rim acrobatics, he has been like a human defibrillator for Houston, bringing with him a much-needed jolt of energy, grit and swagger.

His elite speed and athleticism often results in big-time plays on both sides of the ball, up to and including highlight-reel dunks.

And when he's not sky-walking, he's loading up on the wing or in the corner as one of Harden or Russell Westbrook's three-point bandits, quick on the draw when he gets the ball on a kick-out.

"One thing I pride myself on is being consistent," Westbrook said. "I think that's the hardest thing to do in this league, and I think people take it for granted, and I try to challenge him [House] to be able to do the same thing every single night. Whatever it is that you do...you need to do that every single night.

"I challenge him to play hard every single night, shoot shots when you're open and defend at a high level. That's how you gain your respect in this league."

House appreciates Westbrook's guidance.

"He just tells me to go out there and play hard," House said. "And I just tell him, 'You're right,' and he says that when you play hard, everything happens. Everything happens when you play hard. He told me: 'You're playing the right way, so you're going to make a couple of mistakes. Everybody messes up. Just take whatever comes with it and keep pushing, because you're doing a great job.'"

On a team with two former MVP guards, House is still a standout asset in D'Antoni's offensive attack.

If he continues to do what got him here (filling the lane, filling it up from deep, dunking and playing defense), he'll be shooting imaginary webs in a Rockets uniform for years to come.

But to do that, he'll have to combine all of the above while employing the sage advice Slim gave him at the beginning of his basketball journey.

"My parents told me life ain't free," House said. "Nobody in this life is going to give you anything, so you're going to have to go out there and work hard for it or take it. My dad said take it; my mom said work hard for it. I'm going with both of them, but I prefer to take it."


Unless otherwise indicated, all stats courtesy of Basketball Reference or NBA.com.

Maurice Bobb covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ReeseReport.