Christian Wood sees himself as a star, and he believes in Houston


On his 27th birthday, Christian Wood acknowledged the low expectations that surround the young Houston Rockets this season. But despite what many around the NBA are characterizing as the early stages of a rebuild, Wood indicated at Monday's media day that he isn't giving up on the short-term - and one big reason is the confidence he has in himself.

For the 2020-21 season overall, Wood posted strong numbers in his first year as a consistent NBA starter, averaging 21.0 points (51.4% FG, 37.4% on 3-pointers) and 9.6 rebounds in 32.3 minutes per game. But the 6-foot-10 big man was even better in the 17 games prior to a severe ankle sprain on Feb. 4 in Memphis. During that stretch, Wood shot 55.8% from the field and 42.1% on 3-pointers, and his added explosiveness allowed him to collect more rebounds and blocked shots, as well.

Prior to the injury, Wood was drawing All-Star consideration, and the Rockets were in a stretch with seven wins in eight games. When Wood finally returned in late March, he was often grimacing and hobbled, and never had quite the same burst or overall effectiveness as he did before. Ultimately, he had to end his season early.

But after taking a few weeks to rest and allow the ankle to fully heal, Wood said Monday that he's at 100 percent entering 2021-22. As a result, Wood's expectations are high entering the new season - both for himself and his team, which he's practiced alongside in recent weeks.

For himself personally, Wood identified finishing, shooting, and passing - specifically out of double teams, which he expects to see more of this season - as offseason points of emphasis. He also said he believes his offseason fitness regimen has ended his troublesome ankle issues.

"I think I only gave you guys 41 games last year," Wood said at media day. "I expect to give you guys more games."

When asked whether he sees himself as a power forward (perhaps starting next to Daniel Theis) or a center (likely next to Jae'Sean Tate) in 2021-22, Wood downplayed the importance of position labels.

With regards to Silas specifically, Wood said his relationship with Houston's second-year coach grew quite a bit in the offseason.

But as Wood sees it, individual goals are secondary to team ones.

"My main thing is wins," Wood said. "I'm not focused on the All-Star Game or what my individual goals are. I'm focused more on team goals, and I feel like all the individual goals will come if we win."

When asked later whether Wood views himself as a star in the league, he said he did, but added that wins are necessary to bolster that case.

"I believe I'm a star right now," Wood told reporters Monday. " To expand, I think it comes down to winning. I had a losing season, last season. It's not a secret. To prove your worth and who you are in this league, I think you have to win, and that's what I'm focused on."

While he's not predicting a perfect season, it certainly sounds as if Wood has much higher expectations than the injury plagued 2020-21 year that ended with the Rockets finishing with the NBA's worst record (17-55).

"I'm not going to tell you that we're going to go 81-0 [82-0] in the season, but the sky is the limit," Wood said. "If we stay together and we build on what we have right now, and we could bring in a little bit more talent, the sky's the limit for us. I think we're doing a great job and I like where we're at right now, and I'm happy to be in Houston."


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