There’s just something about familiar faces.
Rockets forward Luc Mbah a Moute played with guard Chris Paul for two years with the Los Angeles Clippers. While at UCLA, he played teammate Ryan Anderson (California) six times. During summers, he’d spend time in Los Angeles, where several players live or frequent.
“It’s a lot of guys who we’ve played against in summer, played against in college, so you’ve known each other for a long time. The transition was very easy,” Mbah a Moute said of his new team. “That made it easy to adapt and get to know these guys.”
That chemistry extends to the floor where the team’s outscored opponents 322 to 281 points off the strength of a much-improved defense through three preseason games.
“That’s probably the best thing we did yesterday, the defense was pretty good,” head coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It’s all potential, it doesn’t mean anything but we have an opportunity to be really good on defense and offense so hopefully we can max out our potential.”
Mbah a Moute habitually guarded opponents’ top scorers by the time he developed himself into a defensive force in the league. In Houston, he appreciates the Rockets refocus on defense; bringing in Paul and forward P.J. Tucker, both well-respected defenders in the league.
“Oh very,” he said, when asked if Tucker’s defensive prowess makes his job easier.
“Just having someone else out there who can guard the other team’s best player. A lot of times we end up being at the three and four—both forward positions—so he can switch onto a small; he can switch onto a big; it just makes our defense so much better.”
“It’s not just him, it’s also Trevor (Ariza), who can play multiple positions defensively.” he continued. “You have a lot of guys who can play different positions. When we click defensively we’re pretty tough.”
Mbah a Moute has played well through four games, including an exhibition against the Shanghai Sharks where he scored 12 points with two rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Through three preseason games, he’s averaging 9.7 points (shooting 62.5% from behind the arc), 2.7 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game.
Now on the sixth NBA team, Mbah a Moute said he’s embracing his opportunity in Houston.
“The last couple years with the Clippers we had a good team but we never went past the first round. I think with this team we have the potential to go further than that,” he said.
“Being in a situation where you play for a team that has a chance to go far in the season; that’s special in itself.”
Offensively, Mbah a Moute is preparing to contribute more. He approached this season intent on being more assertive on offense.
“With the way we play, there’s so much opportunity, especially at the three-point line. Just spacing the floor there’s so many good shooters so you can drop and make plays,” he said. “The offense here is so fun and everyone gets shots so it’s fun to play.”
‘Fun’ is the same word he used to describe his experience in Houston so far.
“I really enjoy myself here,” he said. “I think it’s a great staff, the atmosphere here is amazing.”
On the court, playing a condensed preseason schedule has made each game feel bigger for the Cameroonian.
“It’s a little different for me, just knowing that we play opening night in a few days,” he said.
Regardless of what changes may come, Mbah a Moute is ready for the season to begin.
“I can’t wait for the season to get going so we can continue to do it at a higher level so I’m very excited,” he said.