James Harden pulled up to the day’s event in Manila and tried to describe the scenes that have greeted him through every stop in the basketball-mad Philippines. He had done these sorts of promotional tours before. This was not even his first this offseason. But this one had inspired the sort of fanaticism few fan bases in the world can match.

“Amazing” he said. “I’ve been here before so I’m kind of used to it but it’s a beautiful city nice people. The fans are definitely crazy out here. I can only imagine what October is going to be like when we come out here and have that preseason game. They’re excited. I’m just trying to get them ready for it.”

In many ways however it serves to get him ready too with the Rockets expected to jump from relative obscurity at least compared to Harden’s NBA Finals and Olympics experiences to one of the league’s celebrated teams.

The introduction of Dwight Howard as their latest elite center offered a glimpse and they will get a taste with the preseason games against the Indiana Pacers in the Philippines and Taiwan. All that should serve as a prelude to the assorted Christmas Day and national television appearances that will come along with far greater expectations.

This is what Harden envisioned when he was traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder days before last season saying he knew he would have to take a step back from the Western Conference championship team but believed the Rockets could be built into a contender in time. He never guessed how long it would take but by the All-Star break in Houston he had begun recruiting Howard to join him.