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Wednesday December 14, 2011 2:10 PM

Working Overtime

Rockets pull double duty Wednesday, continue prep for rapidly approaching preseason

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




HOUSTON - It’s no secret that the Rockets have been working their players extremely hard since training camp began in an effort to get everyone up to speed in time for the club’s preseason opener this Saturday night against the Spurs.

Wednesday afternoon, however, a handful of players took their work rate to an even higher level, pulling double duty by filling in at the box office the moment individual tickets for the 2011-12 season went on sale to the public.

Chase Budinger, Patrick Patterson and rookie Chandler Parsons took their seat at the window immediately after practice this afternoon, learning their jobs on the fly while being coached by some of the more seasoned members of the Rockets ticket staff. One assumes the fans waiting in line were forgiving for any growing pains the players experienced while adjusting to their new roles and responsibilities.

On the court, however, it was business as usual for the team as they continue to ramp up for the truncated preseason that starts here Saturday night. The Rockets have plenty of bodies on the practice floor now after adding Jeremy Lin, Ibrahim Jaaber, Omar Samhan and Damian Saunders over the last few days, while also getting rookie Marcus Morris signed and seeing Goran Dragic recover enough from a sprained ankle to take part in most of the team’s drills.

As is the case for teams league-wide right now, the Rockets are experiencing a mad scramble of sorts as they try to get everyone on the same wavelength. Two-a-days started on Tuesday and Kevin McHale’s coaching staff is doing everything it can to implement its system while taking care not to completely overload and overwhelm its players. In certain cases, simplicity simply has to rule the day. But with just 12 days remaining until the Rockets hit the road to open the regular season against Orlando, a premium has been placed upon the players capable of picking things up the fastest.

“It’s tough,” admitted Kyle Lowry, when asked about the club’s cram session currently taking place. “It’s not really easy. You’ve got to kind of learn on the fly – you can’t babysit. You have to go out there and if someone doesn’t know it you have to explain it to them quick, one or two times, and if you can’t get it then you can’t play.”

With fast-learning nearly as important as fast-twitch fibers these days, veterans of the club figure to be safe bets to fare better early on. McHale lauded Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry right off the bat when asked who’s stood out the most so far, complementing both players for their strong defense during the opening week of camp. But he also went out of his way to once again praise two of the team’s young talents, singling out Jordan Hill and Terrence Williams for their early efforts.

“Probably the guy who’s maybe been the biggest surprise to me is Jordan Hill,” said McHale. “He’s been running hard and playing really well and really attentive. Terrence Williams is a guy who can really break down the defense and can also defend. I kind of knew what the other guys could do a bit more, but I didn’t really honestly know what (the younger guys) would do in 5-on-5 situations.

“Terrence is a guy, I tell you right now, he’s defender, he’s been great, he’s been easy to coach, he can make plays. I’ve told him, I’ve said, ‘Terrence, you’ve got to be able to defend the wing spot, rebound the ball and not turn it over – make plays but not turn it over.’ You do those things and I think he can work himself into the rotation.”

No question, those are encouraging words to hear concerning two of the club’s most physically gifted players. McHale was quick to caution, however, that it’s one thing to perform well in practice, quite another to do so when it’s game time.

“It’s so different,” said McHale, “because I’ve seen a million different guys come in practice and light it up, or you see a couple guys in practice not doing well. Then the games start and it’s a whole different animal. What can you do when the bright lights come on, baby? You get paid to win basketball games and some guys just are better when the bright lights are on, so we’re going to find out a lot about these guys once the games start.”

And 1s: Rockets.com sat down for a one-on-one interview with Chase Budinger after Wednesday’s practice, catching up with him to discuss his offseason volleyball experience, commitment to defense, and the confidence and character he gained after a rocky start to the season. Budinger bounced back strong from that experience and the entire interview (embedded within this story) is worth checking out.

Also worth checking out if you haven’t already: yesterday’s one-on-one interview with training camp invitee Omar Samhan. The 6-11 center was a smash hit during the 2010 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, impressing everyone with his low-post skills and unforgettable personality (which he showed off once more during the interview). Among the highlights: Samhan raving about his opportunity to learn from McHale, who was his favorite player growing up, before adding, “"I’m better looking but he’s the much better player."

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