With chilly Delaware memories, House Jr. says he's ‘revamped my character'

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Danuel House Jr. hasn’t forgotten what being a Delaware 87er felt like — in a literal sense.

“It was cold. It was cold, but it was cool,” House told NBC Sports Philadelphia on Tuesday night before the Sixers’ season-opening road defeat to the Celtics. “They did a lot for us at the (University of Delaware) when we played. Fans came out and supported.”

On assignment from the Washington Wizards, House suited up for seven games in the 2016-17 season with the Delaware franchise currently known as the Blue Coats, sharing the floor as a rookie with players such as Dionte Christmas and Brandon Triche. 

Now 29 years old and on his sixth NBA team, House can relate through experience to most of his non-star teammates. The Houston native said he recently talked with rookie Julian Champagnie about being on a two-way contract. He was surprised to learn the player sitting to his right, Shake Milton, also played for Delaware and worked his way up from a two-way deal. 

“I never really knew Shake was shaking boys up down there,” House said. 

While Milton has stayed a Sixer since being taken 54th overall in 2018, the undrafted House’s career has been volatile. 

A notable part of House’s NBA story is his exit from the league’s Disney World “bubble” in 2020. An NBA investigation found House “had a guest in his hotel room over multiple hours … who was not authorized to be on campus.” House averaged 11.4 points and 5.8 rebounds in 31 minutes per game that postseason. Without him, James Harden, P.J. Tucker and Daryl Morey's micro-ball Rockets lost the final three games of their second-round series to the eventual champion Lakers. 

House spent most of last year looking for something secure. He was waived by Houston in December, played a single game with the Knicks, and finally earned a steady job in Utah after signing three 10-day contracts. 

“It is what it is,” House said of his 2021-22 season. “The league knows what every player is capable of. You’ve just got to go through the mud to achieve the glory. 

“I just wanted to show that I revamped my character, controlling the narrative this year, because a lot of people had a lot of things to say about me. So I wanted to control that this year. Make sure that I’m embodied in showing people that I’m a part of the organization and the team.”

What does House mean by “revamping his character?” 

“I would say commitment to the game,” he said. “I had to go back. When you’re on a 10-day contract, you’ve got to revamp your game, so I just had to commit myself to my game and figure out a few things to make me successful, to make my role flourish — why I’m here.”

According to House, adaptability has always been natural to him. A decent outside shot (36.5 percent in his career from three-point range) and impressive defensive fluidity supplement those survival instincts. House tends to look comfortable flowing from one action to the next, sticking to his man while avoiding excess fouls. 

If he remains in the Sixers’ rotation, that will likely be an important reason.

“Just playing,” House said. “We’re just hooping. I take pride in it, of course. You don’t want a man scoring 60 on you, because then it’s going to be your face on ESPN. So just taking pride in it and just trying to guard the man the best way that I know.”

On offense, House thinks the essence of his approach hasn’t changed. 

He chuckled a couple of times on Oct. 9 in describing the balance between innate self-belief and a team-oriented mindset. 

“I still do what I do, but it’s just knowing the game and the feel of the game, and (making) the reads,” House said. “Every time you’re open, you don’t necessarily just have to shoot that thing.

“If I’m open and I’m 1 of 10, in my mind I’m like, ‘All right, it’s going to be a tough one.’ So do you take it or not? I’m going to take it, but you’ve got to program yourself for that. It’s building maturity, I would say more than anything, because every player in this league is talented. 

“So it’s about the maturity level of, ‘All right, I’ve come to this team; I need to do this, do this, do this. On this (other) team, I maybe did this, did this and this.’ Even though that was Year 2; I was younger, but that’s how people look at things. Different teams, different schemes, different systems. Maturity. What’s beneficial for the team, not beneficial for myself? Self accolades come when the team is winning, I promise.”

With the first season of a two-year, $8.5 million contract underway, House is hoping to win in the playoffs and make his first deep postseason run.

And, if he fancies watching a Blue Coats game on a day off, he'll remember a winter coat. 

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