Give Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey credit for this much: he has no interest in gloating about the trade that transformed his franchise.

Acclaim has been easy to come by for Morey this season, as his October deal that brought James Harden to town from Oklahoma City put his team back in the playoffs after a three-year absence and established quite the foundation for their future. But when Morey returned this reporter's request for an interview earlier this week, the agreement to chat came with one precondition: no more analyzing of the Harden trade.

What he'd love more than anything else, it's safe to assume, is being able to brag about a first round upset of the very Thunder team with which he pulled off the trade. And that, more than anything else, is all you need to know about the state of the Rockets these days. It's not just about Harden anymore, but about a team that has its franchise player and is hell-bent on having some fun while this rebuilding effort unfolds.

The top-seeded Thunder (60-22) will enter as the heavy favorites over the eighth-seeded Rockets (45-37), but that doesn't mean it will be easy. Houston isn't just happy to be here. And while the trade that sent Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round pick to the Thunder was the rare win-win for all involved, only one team can win now.

"Yeah, I had happy-to-be-here for like a day," Morey admitted by phone before the final seeding was determined on Wednesday. "When you've been out (of the playoffs) for three years, it's hard not to feel that way. So for one day I let myself be happy to be there, and then it was right back to figuring out how to win in the first round."

That is, without question, the hard part. The Rockets lost three of four games against the Thunder this season, but they had plenty of good nights against every other playoff team that doesn't reside in Denver. Their 0-4 mark against the Nuggets aside, they were 8-11 against San Antonio, the Clippers, Memphis, Golden State, and the Lakers.

"I think for sure, among the lower seeds, five to eight in either conference, it's ourselves and whoever is left in the five seed (Memphis) that are easily the teams that no one wants to face," he said. "We've beaten every good team in the league, except Miami I think. And we haven't beaten Denver, but we feel like – obviously they're an extremely good team, but some of that is scheduling too.

"Coach (Kevin) McHale and the players have done an amazing job to get us to here. As with all teams, we've had our ups and downs…We're getting, obviously, All-Star level contributions from James, huge contributions from all our starters – Jeremy (Lin), Chandler (Parsons), Omer (Asik). What we hoped would happen when we made those moves at the trade deadline was that a couple bigs would step up and give us solid minutes, and that's happened with Greg Smith and Terrence Jones. They've both really taken a step forward and helped us win a lot of games."