In less than a month, Orlando will be the home for 22 NBA teams participating in the league’s attempt to conclude the 2019-20 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. When the season recommences, the Houston Rockets will be in the heart of a congested Western Conference race with the expectations of possessing the Larry O’Brien trophy come mid-October.
Although they are entering the restart sitting sixth in the conference with a 40-24 record, chemistry may be Houston’s most significant advantage when challenging their contemporaries. Several of the league’s top contenders will return to play without one of their key members, including the Lakers, who lost their best perimeter defender in Avery Bradley — who declined the invitation to return.
As of now, the Rockets are expecting to have their full roster when they get back together, which could be grim news for their opponents. They are returning to court as the second-highest scoring team in the league, averaging 118.1 points per game with a 113.4 offensive net rating.
A significant part of the Rockets’ success this season has been the production coming from former lottery pick, Ben McLemore. Since joining the Rockets last July, he has revived his career as one of the most reliable role players in the league. As Houston’s most superior three-point sniper shooting a team-best 39.5% from deep, McLemore is scoring 9.8 points per game, logging an average of 23.0 minutes per contest.
It has been 115 days since McLemore last suited up for the Rockets, but the goal of winning a championship remains the same for the St. Louis native preparing for life inside of the NBA Bubble. TDS had a chance to talk with him.
How do you feel about the NBA restart and playing inside the Bubble, as well as your concerns heading into Florida given the rising cases of COVID-19?
“I’m looking forward to returning to play. I’m a competitor, and I fully trust the NBA and NBPA have made a well-informed decision based on the expertise and guidance of top medical practitioners. I’m excited to get back rolling.”
In what ways have you and your teammates benefited from the three-month hiatus?
“I was able to spend extended time with my family — which is great for peace of mind. I used my time very diligently to improve on my craft. I viewed it as an off-season within the season. This allowed me to key in on areas of my game that needed work so that when the season returned, I would be ready. I didn’t know when or if we would get our season back, but I worked like we was going to. I know the group of guys on our team are the type to work, and I know they’ve also used their time off in a positive manner. We’re ready to come out and compete.”
The last time the Rockets played was during a March 10 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. As an athlete, how difficult will it be for you to jump back into the season after a long three-month break?
“Obviously, we have never been in this particular circumstance before, so anything I say will be an educated guess at best. The only experience I have with any hiatus is the normal off-season, and going into training camp. I’m confident I’ve done a great job of staying in shape, watching film, working out, and I think that will make the transition more seamless.”
A few players came out and said that trying to stay ready for the season was difficult because of their lack of resources. How were you able to stay in shape during the NBA suspension?
“I was fortunate enough to have a private facility to workout in while staying safe. I did cardio, strength training, court work, and I did film sessions with my manager and Will Dunn from the Rockets’ staff twice a week. That alone was incredibly helpful. I love our staff. They’re always excited to put in extra work with me, which as a player, is super helpful.”
Last week, you released a new LP called, Life During Quarantine. What was your inspiration behind the project?
“Two things — a bit added free time and the unprecedented times we are in was absolutely the inspiration. We’re all in this together, fighting the same enemy, and everyone could use that reminder. I hope people are able to listen to it and enjoy a brief distraction.”
With a song like Psalms 23 on your track list, how can this album help uplift people’s spirits, given everything that is going on in our country right now?
“I think it’s just like I said earlier, we as a country are all fighting this thing together. We undoubtedly will have moments of doubt, moments where we feel overwhelmed, but I think we have to have some positive moments. We have to keep the pilot light lit, stay positive, and try to embrace any sense of normalcy we have. Music is huge for that. We can connect through music.”
I know you are extremely big on family. How great was it to be able to spend a lot of quality time with your wife and kids despite the NBA suspension?
“It was amazing. I have a newborn son, and it was fantastic to be able to be around him and my wife and daughter. I was able to spend my wife’s birthday with her at home, which is something I haven’t been able to do often because of when her birthday falls. I’m sad to leave them, but the extra time spent with them is something I’ll always cherish, and I look forward to them joining me in Orlando when able.” — McLemore