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Summer trip to Bahamas forged chemistry vital to Rockets' playoff run

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Stormy1234, May 19, 2018.

  1. Stormy1234

    Stormy1234 Member

    Sep 16, 2015
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    Summer trip to Bahamas forged chemistry vital to Rockets' playoff run
    Brian T. Smith | on May 19, 2018
    Photo: Tim Warner/Getty Images
    HOUSTON, TX - MAY 16: Chris Paul #3 and James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets react in the second half against the Golden State Warriors in Game Two of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 16, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

    SAN FRANCISCO — How did the Rockets get three wins away from the NBA Finals?

    You already know all the obvious answers.

    The best roster that general manager Daryl Morey has ever constructed. The seamless first-year pairing of James Harden and Chris Paul in the same backcourt. A franchise-best 65-win season from Mike D’Antoni, the NBA’s reigning Coach of the Year. Gritty veterans P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute adding much-needed defense to a historic offensive attack. The continual ascension of young center Clint Capela.

    But few know how important the Bahamas, Las Vegas and Miami were to the team that will stride into Oracle Arena on Sunday tied at 1-1 with the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

    That Hurricane Harvey nearly derailed a mission-critical gathering for the Rockets last summer.

    And that some of the toughest, most intense basketball games D’Antoni’s team has played in the last year occurred when the squad divided into two sides, then proudly united after.

    “We was getting after it. It was real,” said Tucker, who laughed Saturday before practice when the Rockets’ “Bahamas Five” nickname was mentioned. “It’s so funny that we’re on vacation and all chilling. As soon as we got back in the gym, first team won and that second team was like, ‘All right. Ball up. Let’s go.’ We were going at it.”

    Three years ago, the Rockets faced the Warriors in the conference finals, fell 4-1, then began going at each other during a fractured season that followed. As the locker room divided, players took sides. By the end of a highly disappointing 41-41 campaign in 2015-16, Kevin McHale would be fired, Dwight Howard would be looking for another clean start and the Rockets had again fallen 4-1 to Golden State in the playoffs.

    We know what followed. The Rockets’ placed all their faith in D’Antoni, Harden began to fully accept the weight that came with being the face of a franchise, and much-improved team chemistry led to a 55-win season.

    Then Morey tinkered with his roster yet again — doubling down on creating a unit that could eclipse the Warriors’ three-year reign — and there the Rockets were Saturday morning inside the University of San Francisco’s War Memorial Gym, barely 24 hours away from one more shot at Golden State.

    Since Oct. 17, 2017 — 122-121 road team on ring night at Oracle — these Rockets have always felt different. There was the hard fire that burned after the inexplicable season-ending letdown against San Antonio during last year’s conference semifinals. There was also a core group of superstars and role players who began creating bonds and building a foundation while most of the league was still on summer vacation.

    “James and Chris get a lot of credit for that,” Morey said. “From day one, just because they’re such veteran guys that know what it takes to win, they said their communication had to be top notch. And so they planned everything together, they really did everything together.”

    Paul was traded to the Rockets on June 28, 2017. By the end of July, key team members had gathered in Las Vegas during the annual Summer League, then The Beard and CP3 made a joint on-court appearance at the famed Drew League in Los Angeles.

    But it was a planned full-team trip to the Bahamas at the end of August that truly brought the new Rockets together, establishing increased internal expectations while strengthening the chemistry that has been so evident throughout the 2018 playoffs.

    “It was the foundation of what we’ve got now, for sure,” said Tucker, who credited Harden and the Rockets’ front office for putting the trip together.

    His team has played 99 combined games since the Bahamas, so Morey’s memory of the excursion has faded a little. But he does remember that it was supposed to involve “everybody” before Harvey hit, and did include D’Antoni’s current starting lineup.

    “I couldn’t get a flight (because of the hurricane),” Morey said. “The guys who made it went early.”

    A group of almost 10 still made the trip, Tucker said, which occurred around the same time as Harden’s 28th birthday on Aug. 26 and was far beyond any other team-building experience the seven-year NBA veteran had ever been a part of.

    “I’ve had teams where we’ve tried out things for two or three days, going to L.A. or New York or something,” Tucker said. “But, no, not like that.”

    For Mbah A Moute, who signed with his new team in mid-July, the Rockets in the Bahamas was his initial introduction to everything that followed. There were daily pick-up games, conditioning workouts — including running on the beach — and a regular blend of intense competition with constant laughter.

    “I remember guys being competitive but having fun — really bonding,” Mbah A Moute said. “It was really good.”

    A later trip to Miami — which saw Nene fly in from Brazil — continued to strengthen team-wide relationships and build inner trust.

    “They could sense what we had,” Rockets CEO Tad Brown said. “Once we were able to finalize the trade for Chris, everybody kind of looked at it and said, ‘We’ve got a chance to have something special here.’ ”

    All season, the Rockets have insisted it’s all about them, not their opponents. They’ve also openly discussed their willingness to critique and criticize themselves, all for the greater good.

    When you’re truly trying to win an NBA championship (and take down the Warriors), there’s no time for hurt feelings. It’s also taken two seasons under D’Antoni for the Rockets’ chemistry to become this strong.

    “It plays a big role in the sense of, ‘Can I criticize a teammate because we’ve been together?’ … In a good way, of being able to get on somebody without somebody being offended or taking it the wrong way,” D’Antoni said. “They’re friends, they know it, they talk all the time. So now in a timeout you don’t have somebody trying to kill somebody. ‘Hey, we talked about this, and this is what we need to do.’ … Everybody has something to say from a good place.”

    It started small and with Morey defying convention. Two Hall of Fame-caliber point guards sharing the same ball, the season after the Rockets won 55 games and the Warriors won another world title.

    Harden and Paul brought their worlds together, started building upward, then the whole squad followed.

    “You can tell the teams that really enjoy what they’re doing,” Paul said. “I’ve been on those teams where you sort of are just going through the motions. But you can see it with us that there are genuine relationships. It means a lot.”

    It resulted in a franchise-best 65 wins, the best regular-season record in the NBA, and the Rockets now the same number of victories away from the Finals as Golden State.

    This return to Oracle Arena and the Western Conference finals began last summer, when the remade Rockets started pushing each other farther than ever before.

    “From the Bahamas, to Vegas, to just dinner nights and different things like that, that all adds up and it builds,” Harden said. “That’s one of the reasons why we were so successful and why we’re here.”
  2. rocketman84

    rocketman84 Member

    Jun 29, 2003
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    I love stories like this! Thanks for sharing
    macan, saleem, thedreamsteam and 2 others like this.
  3. ghettocheeze

    ghettocheeze Member

    Jun 9, 2006
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    Hamptons Five vs. Bahamas Mambas
  4. FTW Rockets FTW

    FTW Rockets FTW Contributing Member

    Jun 23, 2011
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  5. Voltik

    Voltik Member

    Apr 12, 2009
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    Excellent read and interesting perspective on building team chemistry. Kudos to Harden, CP3, and entire Rox org and players for having forethought to build team chemistry so early on.

    Need more of these articles and further depth to how close this group is. A championship would further this desire on knowing about team chemistry!
    Stormy1234 and rocketman84 like this.
  6. Os Trigonum

    Os Trigonum Trust the process
    Supporting Member

    May 2, 2014
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  7. TheFreak

    TheFreak Contributing Member

    Feb 18, 1999
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  8. danoman

    danoman Contributing Member

    Nov 9, 2009
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    I wonder if I can write off my vacations on my taxes by saying that they forged success?
    Stormy1234 likes this.
  9. macan

    macan Member

    Mar 1, 2017
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    nice find op! i'll pick Bahamas 5 over Hampton 5 all day every day! **** dam worriers!
    Stormy1234 likes this.
  10. RasaqBoi

    RasaqBoi Member

    Nov 12, 2007
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    Bahamas 5 pulling up

    D-rock, Fulgore, Os Trigonum and 3 others like this.

    BAHAMIANFAN Contributing Member

    Aug 30, 2014
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    Here we go again

    Rockets in The Bahamas
    Team to have closed practices at Kendal Isaacs gym

    The Houston Rockets are in The Bahamas for a week-long mini training camp. They will have closed practices at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium.

    Over the years, The Bahamas has become a regular stop for celebrities and professional athletes, whether on vacation or for a business trip.

    The Miami Heat selected the capital island, specifically the Atlantis Resort, for its training camp ahead of the 2013-14 and 2016-17 National Basketball Association (NBA) seasons.

    In recent times, NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal has been making annual trips. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade still take vacation in The Bahamas from time to time. NBA players with Bahamian backgrounds, Klay Thompson and Eric Gordon Jr., come down every year. It’s a no brainer that local players Chavano “Buddy” Hield and DeAndre Ayton will return home on a regular basis. NBA superstars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, along with Jayson Tatum, were spotted here last week.

    Now, the Houston Rockets are in The Bahamas for the second year in a row.

    The Rockets, led by reigning league Most Valuable Player (MVP) James Harden, arrived in The Bahamas on Sunday for a mini training camp. They will have closed practices on a daily basis for a week starting today at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium.

    Senior Marketing Manager at the Ministry of Tourism Jeff Rodgers is spearheading the trip.

    “This is something that started last year and they had a great experience and reached out to me. We were thrilled to accommodate them,” said Rodgers. “It was just up to us to make the necessary arrangements and facilitate their trip – just making sure everything is in place for them. They are very excited and happy to be here. They love the facility, have already fallen in love with The Bahamas, and are looking forward to coming back.”

    The Rockets made a number of offseason moves, all in an effort to dethrone the Golden State Warriors in the west and make a run at the NBA title.

    The team re-signed Chris Paul, Gerald Green and Clint Capela, brought in free agents Michael Carter-Williams, James Ennis and Carmelo Anthony, and recently traded for Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight.

    They appear to have an overloaded backcourt, but according to reports, it’s all in an effort to fit their style of play.

    All of the major players are here in The Bahamas for the mini training camp. They will be here for a week, staying at the Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar.

    “This is a tourism initiative, but I have to give kudos to the National Sports Authority for ensuring the facility is up to standard. We’re working along with them to ensure that everything is in place,” said Rodgers. “The word is out about our reputation as a host nation. Also, Eric Gordon and Chris Paul are here every summer as a part of my camp, and their influence played a huge role in this initiative. They were able to tell the team what to expect here in The Bahamas. This is the place to be.”

    The Jeff Rodgers Basketball Camp is held every summer. Past and present NBA players, including Gordon and Paul, come down every summer and are a part of the camp’s fun night. The fun night features a celebrity game with the past and present NBA players, and closes out the camp.

    League MVP Harden embraces the foreign country gathering for his team. He said that it presents a great bonding moment for them, particularly for the new players on the team. He’s looking forward to possibly making it an annual trip.

    “It’s extremely important,” he told Mark Berman of Fox Sports. “I think last year it was great for us because we kind of built our chemistry up before training camp, and then obviously adding Chris (Paul) and adding P.J. (Tucker), we got a year under our belt. Bringing other guys in, James (Ennis) and ‘Melo, just got to get them acclimated before training camp starts, something we need.”

    Tucker, who emerged as a key player in the Rockets’ run to the best record in the league last year, and to within a game of advancing to the NBA Finals, said that the time together in The Bahamas will give them an opportunity to build chemistry.

    “It’s everything, especially with adding new pieces, guys that are going to play a lot of minutes,” he told Berman. “Guys know each other. We’re friends. It’s a pivotal point, early on, so that we can get to know each other, on the court. It’s something we want to do for sure.”

    Houston finished with an NBA-best win-loss record of 65-17 during the regular season and advanced to the Western Conference Finals before losing to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors in seven games.

    The front office is hoping that offseason additions such as Anthony, Ennis and Carter-Williams offset the losses of Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and Luc Mbah a Moute.

    After spending this week in The Bahamas, the Rockets will return to Houston and begin preparation for the 2018-19 NBA season. The preseason gets underway on Tuesday October 2, and the regular season commences on Wednesday October 17.
  12. ballgame

    ballgame Member

    Jan 29, 2016
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    Is it me or does that look like Pat Bev?
  13. sholaemmanuel

    sholaemmanuel Member

    Jan 13, 2018
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    I hope our new guys: Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight make the trip to Bahamas. Anyone knows if they are part of the Bahamas trips, please, chime in.
  14. craguin

    craguin Member

    Aug 20, 2002
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    D-rock, DreamShook and Deuce like this.
  15. MONON

    MONON Member

    May 20, 2002
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    Good to see they're doing it again this tear. I agree with Harden & hope it becomes an annual event.
  16. Deuce

    Deuce Context & Nuance

    Aug 1, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Good find!

  17. Space City

    Space City Member

    Jul 8, 2013
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  18. don grahamleone

    don grahamleone Contributing Member

    Aug 11, 2001
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    It might be James Ennis, but I'd bet on it being Bev even though his team membership is from years ago.

    BAHAMIANFAN Contributing Member

    Aug 30, 2014
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    I think Bev was gone by the time they started coming here.
    don grahamleone likes this.

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