It’s been a long and sometimes dreary hoops experience for forward Danuel House, going back to the broken wrist he suffered while with the Wizards after just 50 seconds on the floor as a rookie, an injury that ended his time in Washington and, he feared, his time in the NBA.
“My mindset was, ‘Man, I don’t know what I’m going to do. Maybe this isn’t it for me,’” House told Heavy.com. “Go to Europe? I don’t know. I’ve got two children. I needed to find a way to get stuff done.”
That’s a sharp contrast to the conversation House was having on a hot October afternoon in Houston this week. House is a member of the Houston Rockets and in much better spirits these days, having fought his way through three stints in the D-League and finally set to begin his first full guaranteed, long-term NBA contract.
And he’s doing so for a team that not only can compete for a championship, but figures to rely heavily on House’s contribution — maybe more than expected with the news that wing Gerald Green could miss the season with a foot injury, forcing Houston to call more on its role players.
“I can’t wait for this year,” House said. “I can’t wait.”
With good reason. The Rockets added star guard Russell Westbrook to a roster that already was highlighted by MVP runner-up James Harden, giving the team a monstrous one-two punch. For a guy who hustles at all times, plays solid defense and shot the 3-pointer very well last year (41.6 percent), the fit is perfect.
House knows a bigger role is coming. “That’s everything that me and the Rockets and Coach (Mike) D’Antoni and everyone in the organization talked about,” House said. “Increase what I did last year—running lanes a lot more, being athletic, of course.”
Defending and shooting 3s, too. House had shot just 25.9 percent from the 3-point line in 58 attempts in one season with Phoenix. In four college seasons, he shot 33.8 percent from the arc. But extensive work with Rockets assistant John Lucas helped House develop some consistency with the shot, and he’s hoping that carried into this year.
“I think it was just about repetition,” House said. “John Lucas did a great job of getting me there every morning and making sure I got my reps. I got my reps every day before and after practice and then when it was time to play in the game, I was ready.”
House had a defensive rating of 108.3, better than the Rockets’ overall 110.1 rating overall. His offensive rating was 117.2, ahead of the 114.9 the Rockets put up for the season. The team, then, was better offensively and defensively with House on the floor. He had a net rating of 8.9 points, which ranked 14th among players who averaged at least 20 minutes in 30 or more games.
House on James Harden: ‘He is Not a Selfish Guy at All’
The opportunity now to fit in with Harden and Westbrook has piqued House’s excitement. Harden, especially, has been supportive of House over the past year, including in January when the Rockets wanted to convert House’s two-way deal into a rest-of-the-season contract but House’s agent, Raymond Brothers, encouraged him to wait out for a better deal.
He got it and, this summer, signed a three-year, $11 million contract to stay with the team.
Harden spoke highly of House after he was sent back to the G-League, and eventually, House got his new contract. That has stuck with House, especially as he has seen those outside the organization label Harden selfish.
“He is a teammate guy,” House said. “He looks out for the team. He does a lot of stuff for the team. A lot of people think he has got this persona that he’s all about self. You know how people tweet at you, DM you on social media sites when you sometimes check it, it’s like, ‘Wow.’ People think he’s selfish, he is not a selfish guy at all.
“The guy makes sure he looks out for his teammates and all and that things are going smooth. If you feel like you are unhappy about something, you go to him and he will reach out to whoever he needs to reach out to, to make sure you’re happy because he cares about his teammates’ happiness.”
That’s the kind of thing that can motivate a role player like House. With Green out, House could find himself in the starting five, should D’Antoni decide to put Eric Gordon on the bench to give the reserves some scoring punch.
“It really doesn’t matter,” House said. “I just want everyone to know that every time I step out on the court, Danuel House, he gave it his all, win lose or draw. I came out and played basketball the right way and played hard. That’s the only thing I want to leave, the impression I want to leave on people’s mind. I don’t really too much care if I start or don’t start.”
Wait-And-See on Rockets’ Title Hopes
House has heard the chatter and he knows the Rockets are among the teams favored to win the West and possibly the NBA championship. He’s shelving that kind of talk for now, though.
There is a mass of teams at the top of the West with the capability of reaching the Finals—the Lakers and Clippers, Denver, Utah, perhaps even Golden State and Portland—but Houston is near the top of that mix.
“Everybody says championship,” House said, “but I don’t want to speak ahead of time. I just want to take one day at a time, one step at a time. Whatever we get, I hope we leave a lot of smiles on a lot of people’s faces. The end game is a championship, but at the same time, I am not going to put any expectations, any barriers on us.”
The expectations, though, are there. The Rockets will need House to provide defense and shooting if they’re going to meet those expectations. He’s ready for that.
“I am just going to say, come out, watch us play and enjoy it,” House said. “I can’t wait.”