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News And Notes: Rockets Ready For Launch

Rockets prep for preseason opener; latest on Lin and White

HOUSTON - The wait is almost over. In little more than 24 hours, the Rockets will tip-off the preseason portion of their 2012-13 schedule when they take on Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the reigning Western Conference champions from Oklahoma City Wednesday night in McAllen, Texas.

And while the star power on hand certainly adds to the anticipation of and build up for tomorrow’s exhibition opener, let’s face it, from a Rockets’ perspective the opponent is largely irrelevant. Houston’s coaching staff won’t be worried about what KD and company do; they’ll simply be concerned with watching to see whether or not their own players can execute the game plan and play within the system. Or as assistant coach Kelvin Sampson told his club during Monday’s practice: “Basketball isn’t a game of great plays; it’s a game of eliminating mistakes.” All eyes, then, should be focused on how cleanly Houston’s young players can function on the floor together, and the amount of error-free ball they can play while adhering to the sets and overall system in place.

“The interesting thing about Wednesday is I’m not exactly sure what’s going to happen at all,” admitted Head Coach Kevin McHale following the first of two practices the Rockets had planned for Tuesday. “I don’t know if our guys will stay with their plan and do their job and (stay) disciplined, or if it will be just a three-ring circus and everybody’s running around because they’re all excited because they’re playing in front of a bunch of people and it’s their first NBA game.

“It’s more of a learning experience. Preseason games sometimes are so much fool’s gold it’s ridiculous. It depends on where you’re at. For us, we’re going to play our guys more. I assume (Thunder Head Coach) Scott Brooks and Oklahoma City care a little bit more about June next year and playing in the Finals than they are thinking about, ‘Boy, October 10 we’ve got a big preseason game in McAllen.’”

Wednesday’s game will provide McHale and his staff with their best test yet of the various rotations they’ve been toying with since the start of training camp. At this point, good health permitting of course, the starting lineup seems set with Omer Asik at center, Patrick Patterson at power forward, Chandler Parsons at small forward, Kevin Martin at the two and Jeremy Lin manning the point. But beyond that a whole host of possibilities exist, with another eight-to-ten players figuring to be part of the positional melee that ensues for the rest of the Rockets’ rotation minutes.

“There are guys that play better together, you can already see it,” said McHale. “And usually the guys that are playing better together are just accountable guys that do their job and just kind of stay in their lane – you can play off of those guys.”

So what sort of lineup combinations can fans figure to see tomorrow night?

“You’ll see them when we’re out there playing,” deadpanned McHale.

Seems reason enough to tune in tomorrow night. Tip time is 7 PM CST on Comcast SportsNet Houston and for those with a cable carrier that does not yet provide CSN-Houston, here is the obligatory plug (and link) for you to let your voice be heard so that you can “demand the channel.”

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Mentioned on Saturday that Jeremy Lin was rounding into form as training camp moved along and that his quickness seemed to incrementally be returning as he continues to regain strength and explosion following offseason knee surgery. It should come as no surprise, then, that Lin said Tuesday his primary personal goal for this preseason is simply to get himself peaking at 100 percent full health in time for the Rockets’ regular season opener October 31 in Detroit.

“My speed, agility and explosiveness isn’t there yet,” said Lin, “so I’m trying to recover … and get to the point where I was pre-surgery. I probably won’t get to play too much (Wednesday night) but hopefully as the preseason goes on I’ll be able to play more and more to build that endurance.”

Lin later added that his objective to be operating at peak physical capacity by Halloween is a goal that is well within his reach.

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Lastly, Royce White went through his second practice of the week this morning following his return to the club on Monday. He reiterated his appreciation toward his teammates and the entire Rockets organization for standing by him last week while he missed the opening week of camp due to personal reasons, and also said he’s been able to make up ground fairly quickly while playing catch-up on the concepts he missed during his absence.

What is not yet known at this time, however, is whether or not he will accompany the team to McAllen on Wednesday. After missing a full week of practice, his playing time would be minimal – assuming he even plays at all – creating a scenario in which it might be of more benefit for White to simply skip the day trip and instead continue working on his conditioning.

“We’ll decide on that tomorrow,” said McHale. “If he’s not going to play, I’d much rather him stay here and get conditioning in than I would have him come down there and have him sit on the bench and watch.”