News And Notes: Training Camp Day 3
McALLEN, TEXAS - After racing their way through three grueling practices to begin training camp, the Rockets eased off the throttle a bit Thursday morning, taking some time to go over situational strategy and reviewing some of the rule differences between the college and pro game.
So many different elements factor into the transition rookies must make when it comes to adapting to life in the NBA that often times it’s easy to overlook some of the more basic adjustments that must be mastered: Defensive three seconds; eight seconds to bring the ball past mid-court – each represents the subtle stylistic difference between college and the pros, and with so many rookies currently dotting the roster, the Rockets want to make sure everyone is on the same page right from the outset.
“It’s just new,” says University of Kentucky product Terrence Jones. “It’s not that difficult to pick up but it’s just different from college. It just takes some time getting used to, but when it comes to just picking it up, just being able to play basketball naturally for so long you can pick up stuff a little bit quicker than most.”
Speaking of picking things up quickly, the Rockets expect veteran Carlos Delfino will have no trouble playing catch-up after missing the first two days of camp due to the prolonged problems he experienced receiving a work visa while attempting to return to the States from his native Argentina.
The 30-year-old swingman made it to McAllen this morning in time to take part in the first practice of the day and immediately recognized many of the concepts the Rockets were hammering home to their players. Head Coach Kevin McHale says that sort of seen-it-all experience should prove invaluable to his young team.
“Carlos has played in a lot of NBA games, he’s played in big games over in Europe, he’s played in big games in the Olympics so he’s not going to be overwhelmed by anything. He’s going to be a real pro. He picks up things fast. Everybody runs a variation of offensive sets and if he hasn’t run it already he’s played against it enough. So I think guys like him are hugely beneficial.”
Go ahead and add Kevin Martin to the list of players who have stood out with their play in the early days of camp. Any doubts some may have had regarding Martin’s mindset after a disappointing end to the previous season seem to have been summarily dismissed as K-Mart has come to camp in great shape and armed with a positive outlook. On the court, meanwhile, Martin has been one of the team’s best playmakers, a fact that has not been missed by the team’s coaching staff.
“K-Mart’s been great,” said McHale, following this morning’s workout. “He’s been busting his hump and leading … and being a veteran guy for us … He’s been making plays and being aggressive, and been really solid and that’s what we need out of him.”
Much was made last year about Martin’s fit within the McHale offense last year, with some speculation centering around whether or not K-Mart could thrive as he had the previous year while playing within Rick Adelman’s system. And though Martin unquestionably suffered a drop-off in his statistical output last season, between his shoulder injury, errant shooting stroke and the league’s mandate to call Martin’s patented “rip” move differently, it would seem to be a significant stretch to lay the majority of the blame for K-Mart’s statistical decline on a mere change of offensive systems.
And then there is this: For all the talk of Martin’s decrease in production, he was still an extremely effective offensive weapon. According to Synergy Sports, Martin ranked in the 90th percentile at his position in isolation offense, the 94th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, and the 77th percentile in spot-up situations. Yes, Martin needs to find a way to get back to attacking the rim and drawing more fouls, but if his shooting numbers return to his career averages and with more time for both himself and his coaches to strategize ways to take advantage of his unique skill-set, it seems reasonable to expect a big bounce-back year for the 29-year-old guard entering his ninth NBA season.
“I’ve played for a lot of different head coaches,” says Martin. “It’s not really about the system. I’ve had seven different head coaches and scored over 20 a game for all of them. Last year was kind of hectic and things happened … but we got through last year and now we have all month and a different group of guys to establish a connection on and off the court.
“Coach has been harping on moving the ball, not getting it and pounding the ball in one spot. Our team advantage is going to be getting to the free throw line, getting layups and getting assists … It’s just always fun to be play on an unselfish basketball team. It rubs off on everybody else when you play the game the right way and play off each other.”
Last but certainly not least is this thoughtful treatise on life in the spotlight from Jeremy Lin. Few on this planet can relate to what the 24-year-old has experienced over the course of the last nine months, and at times the media onslaught and non-stop demands for his time have undoubtedly been overwhelming for him. But true to form, Lin chose instead to focus on the positive when asked today for his feelings regarding his newfound celebrity status.
“There’s just positives and negatives,” he said. “The positives are you have a unique platform and when you want to say something or you want to do something or if you want to promote a cause, there’s people who want to listen. It’s unique. It’s definitely something, if done the right way and handled the right way, that can be really powerful and influential.
“I think (the lack of privacy and being in the spotlight) took a little getting used to but it just comes with the territory. It’s just learning to be thankful because at the end of the day people care about what you’re doing or how you’re doing and they’ll want to grab a picture with you or something like that and that’s something that, as athletes, we should be thankful for.”
And-1s: Rockets forward/center Donatas Motiejunas missed his second straight practice this morning due to an infection that is being treated with antibiotics. He remains day-to-day.