The Houston Rockets held their final practice of the 2019 training camp inside the Toyota Center on Sunday. On the heels of their preseason opener against the Shanghai Sharks, Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni took this opportunity to get his team accustomed to playing at a faster pace heading into the season.
“With Russell, we have made it an emphasis to play at a faster pace, and hopefully it will carry over. Everybody is juiced up now, but we’ll see if they can push through when they get tired come November. We are going to try and step it up a little bit more this season.”
With six exhibition games on the schedule, D’Antoni says it is extremely important for his players to take each preseason game seriously in order to accomplish their needs before the season. It’s a message James Harden has taken to heart heading into his 10th NBA season.
“We approach each game like its the regular season. This is our opportunity to get better, and we can’t take any of these games lightly no matter who we are playing. We only have a few weeks before our first game, so each game is going to be important.”
When the Rockets take the floor for the first time on Monday, they may have to do so without their new all-star guard, Russell Westbrook. Day two of training camp was another light day for Westbrook — as he spent most of his time on the sideline getting acquainted with his new head coach.
Although he has not ruled him out officially, D’Antoni is doubtful that Westbrook will make his debut against the Sharks.
“We will see what happens, but Russell might not play. This morning, he sat out practice so he can practice with the team tonight, and that is [practice] what’s most important.”
It was another easy day for Russell Westbrook. Following practice on Saturday, D’Antoni said the goal is to integrate him into the system slowly — as the All-Star guard continues his recovery from a knee procedure earlier this summer. #Rockets pic.twitter.com/LG4pXzRQWu— Coty Davis (@CotyDavis_24) September 29, 2019
With Westbrook sidelined for the preseason opener, it allows other players an opportunity to show their worth to crack the Rockets’ final 12-man rotation. It’s an opportunity newcomer Ben McLemore will look to use to his advantage.
“I am excited to be apart of the Houston Rockets and get to start a new journey in my career. With my style of play, I feel I fit in perfectly with the team. The first two days have been great.”
Following their home game against the Sharks, the Rockets will hit the road for a two-week road trip that includes stops in Hawaii and Japan.