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News And Notes: March 3, 2014

Rockets receive awards, injury updates and a new addition prior to matchup with Miami

HOUSTON - So much for a slow, quiet start to the week.

The Rockets hit the news cycle hard Monday, with the team nabbing a pair of awards while simultaneously generating its fair share of news on the injury front as well.

Addressing the former first, Kevin McHale earned Western Conference Coach of the Month honors for helping to lead Houston to an 8-2 mark and the highest winning percentage in the West. The Rockets +9.7 point differential during that time also led the Western Conference and was second overall league-wide, trailing only Miami’s mark +10.

As is his way, McHale deflected all credit for the award to the hard work put in and production delivered by his players, including James Harden who took home Player of the Week Honors – the fourth such honor of his career.

“This is a players’ game – it always has been and always will be,” McHale said immediately following today’s practice. “The guys played well and we won games. The enjoyable thing for me is I see our team coming together. I said this about five or six weeks ago: I could feel us, with some time in the gym and some practice time and playing together, the guys would play well.

“James had a hell of a month, Dwight had a hell of a month. We had a lot of guys play very well and that’s what it takes.

“That award is really a team award. I’ve never seen a coach score a basket yet, I’ve never seen a coach come on the floor and defend. The guys played well and that’s what it’s all about.”

While McHale may not have been willing to embrace the accolade, his players used the opportunity as a platform to lobby for something bigger and better. Both Chandler Parsons and Patrick Beverley pushed for their bench boss to be part of the Coach of the Year conversation; a common sentiment within the Rockets’ locker room these days as the team continues to build upon its title contention credentials.

For his part, McHale made clear that his only concern at this point is his club’s continued improvement as the playoffs draw ever closer. The Rockets are undoubtedly moving in the right direction on that front, having compiled the league’s best record since the calendar flipped to 2014. Improved health and increased familiarity have obviously played key roles in that improvement, but so too has the coaching staff’s willingness to keep an open mind and adjust on the fly.

“We’ve made a lot of changes,” said McHale. “From what we started doing defensively until now, we’ve made a lot of changes. Everything looks good on paper. You watch a team do it really well and you say, ‘We’ll mimic that.’ But we don’t have the same players. So we’ve thrown a lot of stuff out that we’ve tried, but the main thing is the guys have been willing to work at it and get better.

“I just coach the way I wanted to be coached as a player: I wanted someone to tell me what they wanted us to do, put us in situations, explain to me what they want me to do in those situations and then (allow) me to go out and perform it. You try to put them in situations that are going to be beneficial for them offensively and defensively.”

The news emanating from Houston was more of a mixed bag on the injury front as Chandler Parsons returned to practice while Dwight Howard and Jeremy Lin both sat out due to sore lower backs. Parsons said he was feeling significantly better after what he termed as a “sinus migraine infection” had kept him out of Saturday’s game against Detroit due to feelings of dizziness and sensitivity to light. He was a full participant in today’s workout and should be good to go Tuesday when the team plays host to the two-time defending champs from Miami.

As for Howard and Lin, their status has been officially classified as day-to-day, though Howard made light of his issue when addressing the media after practice, appearing to indicate that he’ll likely be just fine by game time tomorrow, too.

“Shouldn’t be that big of an issue,” he said with a smile. “I just had a back spasm. It happens. Just continue to play through it … It’s like a cramp in the leg; it happens and then it goes away.

“I think it’s good that we had a day (off) before the game. That way I get an opportunity to continue to rehab and make sure I won’t have any problems tomorrow.”

Lin was unavailable for comment as he was receiving treatment on his back during the team's regularly scheduled post-practice media availability session. 

Lastly, the Rockets also announced that they recalled guard Troy Daniels from the Rio Grande Valley Vipers earlier in the day. Daniels joins the team amid the most prolific 3-point shooting season in D-League history, having already shattered the record for most 3s made in a single season more than a month ago. The 6-4 guard out of Virginia Commonwealth left the Vipers while being tied for fourth in the D-League in points per game (22.8), due in large part to the fact that he averaged more than five made triples per contest while shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc.

“I felt like I can play on an NBA team because I can shoot the ball and I’m a threat all the time I’m on the court,” he said after taking part in his first practice with the Rockets Monday afternoon. “But now you’re not the man. In the D-league, you’re the man on the team, but you’re not the man up here so you’ve just got to be ready to play your role.

“It’s just a great opportunity to come up here and reap the benefits of what I’ve been doing. It’s a great feeling, something you’ve always dreamed of. I’ve just got to be ready to play if my number gets called … I feel like a young pup out here learning again.”