HOUSTON — Second-year prospect Alperen Sengun set the tone Monday morning during the Houston Rockets' annual Media Day inside the Toyota Center.
When reflecting on the team's expectations for the upcoming 2022-23 campaign, Sengun declared that the Rockets have their eyes set on being the "best team in the league one day," — which Jalen Green later agreed.
"That is a fact," Green said. "We have a lot of young talented guys who want to be great soon. We all have the mentality to do so, and it will happen sooner rather than later."
Green and Sengun understand that becoming the league's best team may not happen this coming season. But the Rockets are entering training camp on Tuesday with the goal of building a steady foundation that will result in getting back to relevancy.
The Rockets have spent the previous two years at the bottom of the league since the departure of James Harden. But for the first time since the 2019-20 campaign, Houston is entering a new season with modest expectations.
The Rockets have had nearly every player on their roster participating in off-season workouts since early May. But more importantly, the team is together with no off-court distractions hanging over the franchise.
The continuity the Rockets have built throughout the summer has the team on one accord entering year three of the rebuild.
"Having my teammates embrace the fact that they want to be the best is dope," Kevin Porter Jr. said. "Having that mindset is what we need to have as a group to become better and to get to that point."
Year 3 of coach Stephen Silas:
Coach Stephen Silas' has had an interesting first two years as head coach of the Rockets. He joined the franchise with the intent of helping the team expand its championship window but was immediately thrust into the forefront of a rebuild.
But entering his third season with the Rockets, the 2022 offseason was the first time Silas experienced some stability. The work his players have put in during the team's voluntary workout program has Silas full of excitement entering the new year.
Since the end of last season, Silas says he has spent a lot of time with his players evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. He believes the Rockets will improve their play on the offensive side of the ball, but Silas' most significant point of emphasis will be improving the team's defensive play.
The Rockets netted a 116.4 defensive net rating during the 2021-22 campaign, which resulted in Houston finishing the year with the league's worst defense.
But instead of focusing on the disappointing efforts throughout the entire 82-game season. Silas used the mid-season progress as the blueprint of their defensive development. The Rockets' defense ranked 21st in the league following their overtime victory against the Los Angeles Lakers on March 8.
"We are going to be super hard to play against on both ends of the floor," Silas said. "We are going to use our quickness and athleticism on the offensive and defensive end. You guys can look for improvements on both ends."
What to make of Kenyon Martin Jr.'s future:
The Rockets have a jam-packed frontcourt entering training camp, and third-year prospect Kenyon Martin Jr. may want out of Houston.
The Athletic reported in June that Martin approached the organization with a trade request — as the second-generation NBA forward yearns for more minutes next season.
With his future up in the air, Martin says he is only focusing on doing his job as a member of the Rockets.
"I am here just to do my job," Martin said. "Everything else is between upper management and my agent. My goal is to get better and to make the team better. So, going into this season with this team, just trying to win as many games as possible and keep moving forward."
Martin was the first player Stone drafted after taking the helm as general manager in October of 2020. He came to Houston as an unknown prospect who quickly established himself as a foundational piece in the Rockets' rebuild.
His lingering trade request has not hindered Martin's relationship with the organization. He has spent the off-season working out with teammates while accompanying the Rockets in Las Vegas during the 2022 NBA Summer League tournament.
- Rockets rookie Jabari Smith Jr. believes that he has grown from 6-foot-10 to 6-foot-11 since the NBA Draft in June.
- Boban Marjanović will quickly become a fan favorite this coming year. Marjanović is happy to be reunited with Silas, who served as an assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks during the 2019-20 campaign.
- Eric Gordon would still like to finish his career in Houston but winning drives him more than anything. Gordon could be a free agent at the end of the 2022-23 season, given that the fourth and final year on his contract is non-guaranteed.
You can follow Coty Davis on Twitter at @CotyDavis_24
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