New Rockets coach ushers in new system in first practice

Tuesday October 2, 2007 6:00 PM

Camp Adelman

New coach ushers in new system during his first training camp practice

Damien Pierce Staff Writer

AUSTIN -- Nearly a half hour after finishing his first practice with Rick Adelman, Rockets forward Shane Battier gushed over how simple it is to understand his new coach's system.

Still, he doesn't imagine the Rockets made it look so easy at the start of training camp.

"Well, it's pretty amazing how simple his philosophy is on both ends of the floor," Battier said. "But we've got a long way to go to make it look easy."

That is, of course, what the next few weeks are all about.

Less than a month away from the team's season opener against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, Adelman began his first season in charge of the Rockets Tuesday afternoon during a three-hour practice at the University of Texas' campus.

The coach's initial workout served as his first opportunity to usher in a new philosophy. While there were some drills, Adelman did most of his teaching in the middle of scrimmages. The coach and his staff answered questions about the team's new free-flowing, high motion offense as guys were running through it. During the final scrimmage of the day, Adelman used multiple lineup combinations and tested the flexibility of his roster by playing guys in new positions.

Did everything run smootly on day one? Not quite. But Adelman understands it's going to be a process for his team to adjust to a new plan.

"That's the first day," Adelman said. "Everybody was in a hurry to do things. That will come with time. We've got a lot of numbers out there (with 19 guys competing for 15 roster spots) and we're trying to work people in. For never seeing this system and running it for the first time, it didn't surprise me."

The Rockets, coming off a 52-win season that ended in the first round of the playoffs, are certainly adjusting on the fly. During the past four seasons under Jeff Van Gundy, the Rockets ran a predominantly half-court offense that generated most of its production through All-Stars Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming.

Adelman, though, has promised to make things easier on his two stars. Rather than leaning on McGrady and Yao to create offense for everyone else, the Rockets coach wants the duo to get their touches through the flow of the offense. He has his big men, at times, playing further away from the basket as passers and his perimeter players making hard cuts to the basket after reading what the defense is giving them.

McGrady, who made the first day of training camp after attending his grandfather's funeral in Florida, welcomes the change. He said he'd like to catch more passes on the move and added that he's more than willing to let more of his teammates shoulder the scoring burden.

"There is a lot more movement to this offense," said McGrady, who mostly handled the ball during the late stages of game last season. "I can play off the ball which is something I didn't do over the past couple of years. I can have guys make plays for me. Last season, it seemed like I was the guy making plays for everybody else and I wasn't on the receiving end. This time, I'm on the receiving end. I'm definitely going to cherish those moments where I'm on the receiving end of a play."

Adelman likes the flexibility of his roster. He pointed out that he used Steve Francis and Mike James together in the same lineup during the team's scrimmage and said he could envision using Tracy McGrady or Shane Battier in the post positions because of their ability to pass from the high post. Right now, he's just trying to get all of his players familiar with doing something new. and finding out what their comfort level is.

"A lot of the stuff we're doing is new to these guys," Adelman said. "They haven't done as much cutting as maybe they've done before without the ball. It's going to take some time, but they were very willing today. But I did tell the guys not to worry about who they're playing with right now because I'm going to mix and match. It doesn't matter who you're playing with right now."

What will certainly take time is implementing those changes with a roster that was overhauled during the summer. The Rockets have at least three new players -- James, Francis and Luis Scola -- who figure to log heavy minutes. That means the team isn't only adjusting to a new system, but learning to play with a new group of talent.

That's why the first practice wasn't exactly an exercise in precision.

"It was rocky," McGrady said. "Guys were running all over the place like a chicken with their head cut off. It was rough today and that's expected coming into the first day of training camp. It's a new system. Guys are out of place and their timing and rhythm is off."

The good news, at least, is that the Rockets can envision how things will look once Adelman's system is installed.

"We have guys that can play multiple positions and we have guys that are willing to sacrifice for the team," Francis said. "Hopefully, we'll keep working hard and it will all come together."

Notable: Bonzi Wells participated in some drills during the first day of training camp, but watched most of the practice with a groin injury. Adelman said the team would filter him into drills based on how the forward is feeling. ... Yao Ming is expected to join his teammates in camp on Friday. "I'm really looking forward to seeing Yao and what he can do," Adelman said. ... Adelman joked that veteran center Dikembe Mutombo had a tough first day getting up and down the floor. "Dikembe got through the day," Adelman said. "That's what he told me. I told him as much of a veteran as he is, he should have signed late if he didn't want to run."