Published November 20, 2014
Every team debuts its new-look squad on Opening Day.
The same is true when the Detroit Pistons host the Houston Rockets Wednesday night, but the Rockets will have the newest look in all of the NBA.
On Saturday, the Rockets acquired reigning Sixth Man of the Year, James Harden, from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-rounder.
Harden, a U.S. Olympian this past summer, wasn't going to get the kind of extension he wanted from the Thunder. Oklahoma City knew they couldn't make him happy, so they found a deal they liked and Harden is now part of the upstart Rockets.
"We can grow here and be something special," Harden said at his introductory press conference on Monday. "It's a new journey for me, a great opportunity."
Houston moved heaven and earth to try and land Dwight Howard in the offseason, but failed. They signed the flavor of the season in 2011-12, Jeremy Lin, to an offer sheet and the New York Knicks didn't match.
So the backcourt for the next few seasons for the Rockets will be Lin and Harden.
"I think he's always been an easy player to play with," said Lin. "I wasn't shocked. We heard about it possibly happening. I was pretty excited. James can really score the ball."
The rest of the roster is a crapshoot for head coach Kevin McHale. It will be a constant mixing and matching trying to find combinations that will get the Rockets some victories. Two newcomers, free agent center Omar Asik and first- round draft choice Royce White, will play big roles. White's story became well-known this offseason. He suffers from an anxiety disorder and has a horrible fear of flying.
The Pistons, like the Rockets, missed the playoffs last season, but they finished strong. After a 4-20 start in the 2011-12 season, Detroit finished 21-21, so there's cause for some positive thinking for a team that hasn't made the playoffs in the last three seasons.
Greg Monroe emerged as a top-flight young big man. Brandon Knight showed signs of brilliance in his rookie season and Andre Drummond, the Pistons' first- round pick this past summer, played impressively in the preseason.
"The great thing about Andre, why we have such huge faith in what he's going to be, is that he's a phenomenal young man," said Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank. "He's as coachable of a guy as we have. So anything that he struggles with, we have unbelievable faith that he's going to get it, because of the strength of his character."
Neither team seems to be a playoff contender this season no matter what they say publicly.
But both squads will be tough beats night in and night out.
Houston has beaten Detroit in eight of the last 10, six of the last seven and three in a row, including last season's lone matchup in Houston.