Some thoughts on the Rockets last practice in the RGV, plus interviews with Donatas Motiejunas, Kevin Martin, Patrick Patterson, and more.
Our Houston Rockets wrapped up training camp from The Rio Grande Valley on Saturday but not before treating the locals to an open practice at the University of Texas-Pan American. They held a scrimmage with four eight-minute quarters but didn't do any of the fluff that usually comes with open practices. There was no music or announcer, the rookies weren't forced to dance for the crowd during halftime. No pomp, no pageantry, it felt a little like a pick-up basketball game; just a bunch of guys playing ball and working hard. Classic Rockets.
Terrence Jones sat out the scrimmage because he tweaked his left ankle before the game and that really bummed me out since I wanted to see him in action. However, Donatas Motiejunas returned after sitting out a few of the previous days with an infection. He was impressive and looked just as good as he did in the Summer Leagues.
There have been some rumblings on Twitter and in the Houston papers all week about how Scott Machado has been lighting up camp — and the reports aren't wrong. Machado looks like the Rockets' best pure passer, to the point that everyone on the court looks wide open whenever he has the ball. In the time I was able to observe practice, I saw him squeeze passes through the tiniest lanes. Odds are he wont see much time behind Jeremy Lin but I'm hoping Machado will be a delight coming off the bench. (I'm secretly hoping he's relegated to the RGV Vipers, if only so I can see him play more often.)
There was a sequence where Lin was guarding Kevin Martin that really made for some interesting basketball. I didn't realize how good Lin is at playing defense. He has great fundamentals, a low center of gravity and a knack for closing out lanes. Martin was on fire through the first three quarters — he had something like 25 points for the game — but slowed down considerably once Lin started guarding him.
Asik had ten rebounds and while its only the first week, concerns about his offensive limitations are well-founded. Luckly though, I don't think he'll be asked to put out much offensively, because between Lin, Lamb and Martin, this team has plenty of scorers.
Some other quick stats from the game (via Jason Friedman at @RocketsJCF): Forbes was 5-of-6 from three point range and scored 24pts; Martin finished 7-of-11 from the floor and 10-12 from the line. Machado 10 assists.
The players were available for a little while after the scrimmage so I got a chance to ask some of the questions that were submitted from the comments:
From a coaching perspective, how do you lead such a young team?
We're just such a young team we're still finding out what they can and can't do. Still getting comfortable with each other. We got such a long way to go. I mean, leadership? I'm not gonna... coaches can help guys out but eventually if we become good, and hope this team really can become good, leadership has to come from within. The NBA is a players game. This is not college, where the coaches personality, you gotta demand that they play hard, play together and a style that you want but they gotta come together to see who they are gonna be as a group.
In what position do you see yourself fitting best in rotations?
I see myself as a true power forward but its gonna come down to where the coaches feel I can contribute the best. If coach thinks I can contribute from somewhere else on the floor then that's where I play.
How do you feel about being compared to Shane Battier?
Shane Battier is a great player and I think he's respected in the league from the defensive end so I like the comparisons from that point. I think I'm really good with the ball in my hands and facilitating and coming out of the pick and roll which I don't think Shane does as much. Not knocking his game but I like the comparison.
Someone in the background: "He's saying I'm better than him" (I think it was Gary Forbes but I'm honestly not sure.)
I'm not saying I'm better than him, he's proven. He's a vet.
So I got you on record, you think you're better than Shane Battier?
(Laughs) I'm not saying I'm better than him. I just think I can handle the ball and make more plays and a little more versatile. But he's proven. He's been in the NBA, he's been doing this a long time. I'll take the comparison any day.
How are you feeling after coming back from that infection?
It's tough, I missed a couple days a camp which in my eyes is important especially in this kind of camp where everyday they try to teach us something. I think that right now it's not gonna be good for a couple of more days but I think I'll catch up, tactical wise and all that.
I'm not the biggest fan to stay on the side of the court and watch the other guys practice so it was pretty painful for me to just sit and watch.
Is Rookie of the Year a realistic expectation for you?
I try to help the team win as many games as possible that's everyone's goal. But I don't have, like, personal goals I just want to help the team win as many games as possible.
Which nickname to you prefer? D-Mo, Donuts, or, my personal favorite, The Count of Motiejunas?
(Motiejunas and the other players around laugh and look at me like I'm the biggest moron.) People call me D-Mo. Coach Murphy said it and it kind of stuck so I'll just go with that. I don't mind being called Donuts it's all in fun but it's the first time I've heard that last one you said. I like that one. Author's note: Boom.
Why not call yourself Dunkin' Donuts? You could get sponsorships.
Wait, there's sponsors?! I'd love some free donuts.
With everything that went on this off-season, has it been hard to stay focused?
I play my game of basketball to stay focus that's what I love to do and that's how I stay focused.
From a psychological standpoint, how do you attack the game of basketball?
Well just being a student of a game, I like to keep prepared going into the game, see how my opponents try to take me, you never want to go into anything unprepared and I think that's one of the biggest keys to competing.