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Rockets practice report: “Today we played a lot more five-on-five”

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The Rockets ramped-up their practice intensity as they wait for the arrival of James Harden and Russell Westbrook. 

2020 NBA Restart - All Access Practice Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

The NBA is 16 days away from the start of its restart, and the Houston Rockets are still awaiting the arrival of James Harden and Russell Westbrook. According to reports, the Rockets expect both players to join the team in Orlando sometime this week, but they have confirmed no date. Despite the absence of their two best players, the Rockets saw more basketball activity during day four of training camp.

On Tuesday, Houston ramped-up practice as they took part in their first five-on-five team scrimmage since March. While defense continued to be the team’s primary focus inside the Contemporary Hotel, the Rockets’ intensity looked outstanding according to head coach Mike D’Antoni.

“Today we played a lot more five-on-five....which is really the first day we got into it. I thought it was really good and their defensive intensity was super. Every day we will play a little bit more and do a little less individual work to get this team into game-like condition.” — D’Antoni

One of the most pleasant results from the first few days of camp has been the physique and health of Eric Gordon. A reoccurring knee injury forced Gordon to miss 30 out of a possible 64 games — including two of the last five contests preceding the league’s suspension in March. Gordon used the NBA hiatus to get back to full health, and it is showing each day he steps on the court in Orlando.

Through the first half of the season, the 31-year-old sharpshooter was averaging 14.5 points while shooting 37.0% from the field, 31.9% from beyond the arc across 34 games.

“When we got to scrimmaging, Eric Gordon looked dominant — he looked really good. A lot of intensity and a lot of what we are trying to get done. But today was a good day.” — D’Antoni

At 37-years-old, the NBA bubble experience could be the last dance for Tyson Chandler. The onetime Defensive Player of the Year winner and All-Star alluded at the fact that he may be sitting next to ESPN’s Tim McMahon in quarantine should the COVID-19 pandemic last into next season.

While he continued to ponder retirement at the end of the season, Chandler reassured his role on how he can contribute to a team despite insufficient minutes.

“Practice, keeping myself ready and talking to guys. My presence, especially on this team, means a lot in the locker room. I always tell coach ‘whenever you want to switch it up, I am ready.’” — Chandler

When the season resumes on July 30, the Rockets will open the season restart against their South West division rival Dallas Mavericks on Friday, July 31. Houston will have an opportunity to improve their post-season standing with eight games left in the regular season before the start of the playoffs.

They sit sixth in the West with a 40-24 record and could move up to the third seed — depending on how they close out the season. Despite the up-and-down season Houston has had thus far, Austin Rivers remains confident in the Rockets’ ability to bring home a championship title this October.

“I know there’s 22 teams here, but we all know there’s like three or four teams that actually have a legit shot of winning [the championship]. We feel like we’re one of those four teams.” — Rivers.