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Saturday December 10, 2011 6:23 PM

Day Two

Rockets shorthanded during second day of training camp

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




HOUSTON - Already dealing with the standard soreness and fatigue that always accompanies the opening of camp, the Rockets returned to the Toyota Center practice court Saturday afternoon with an additional obstacle to overcome. A smorgasbord of situational circumstances left the team with only nine players able to participate in practice, meaning all those tired legs would be pushed even harder. Full credit to the men involved for being able to put in another high-intensity, three-hour workout, but there was no denying the fact that players were dragging by the end.

So what happened to put the team in this situation? For starters, the trade cloud that has enveloped Houston for the past 48 hours continued to make its presence felt, as Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic were held out while the rumors and whispers persist. Patrick Patterson, meanwhile, is unable to practice since he is continuing to rehab from offseason surgery to remove bone spurs from his right ankle. And then there is the matter of Houston’s rookies, Marcus Morris and Chandler Parsons, being unable to suit up until their respective contracts have been completed and signed. The Rockets did have recent training camp signee Casey Mitchell on hand to help, but his presence still left Houston a man short from a five-on-five perspective.

That meant point guards Kyle Lowry and Jonny Flynn, and bigs Hasheem Thabeet and Jordan Hill were on the floor nearly non-stop since they were the only players available at their respective positions. But that harsh reality did little to curb the energy and effort given as the Rockets continued to spend a significant amount of time addressing the defensive side of the ball. And, as Head Coach Kevin McHale noted afterward, his club is hardly alone when it comes to shorthanded practice sessions right now.

“You know what? I called around a little bit yesterday and a lot of teams are doing what we’re doing,” said McHale, when asked how he was dealing with the shortage of available players. “We had nine today; we beat some teams by two – some teams just had seven. A couple teams just had shooting drills and then they went home, so it’s the same for everyone.”

The short-staffed practice session also presented a benefit of sorts. For young players like Terrence Williams, all the additional reps presented more of an opportunity to showcase their respective skill sets and offseason growth. McHale has personally told T-Will that he loves the passing, rebounding and athleticism he brings to the floor, but what he really wants to see is Williams develop into the defensive demon he has the tools to become.

“Like a lot of these guys … when he really focuses on defense, he can really defend,” said McHale when asked about what he’s seen from Williams early on in camp. “A lot of times, the reason you’re not a good defensive team is you try to take some shortcuts, so we need to get a few of the shortcuts out of everybody. But Terrence, when he’s focused in, man, he can move his feet, he’s strong, he’s athletic and he can be an elite defender in our league. But in order to be an elite defender in our league you’ve got to buy into it and love it, and that’s his next step.”

For his part, Williams says he’s taken that message to heart and understands the importance of attempting to learn from the habits and skills shared by some of the game’s best stoppers.

“Bruce Bowen, as far as how active he is with the hands,” said Williams, revealing the players past and present he’s studied for tips and tricks to incorporate into his own game. “I’ll go as far, mentor-wise, with Shane Battier because I’ve never seen somebody study a person more than Shane. And as far as the physical part, Metta World Peace … I’d go with them. I mean I’m nowhere near any of those guys but as far as mimicking somebody, that’s who you’ve got to mimic.”

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