HOUSTON - With training camp about a month away, several Rockets players are already back on the Toyota Center practice court, working to get ready for the upcoming season. To find out what they’ve been up to this offseason, Rockets.com’s Jason Friedman will sit down with each player over the next few weeks to discuss what they’re working on, what their goals are, and how they’ve been spending the summer both on and off the court.
Taking his turn in the hot seat today is third-year forward Patrick Patterson. What follows is a transcript of their conversation.
JCF: One thing I’ve noticed while watching you work out the past few days is that you’re all business – no smiling, no laughing, just a very focused, workmanlike demeanor. Is that the result of you feeling like you have something to prove this year?
PP: It’s the result of a few things. With the departure of Luis Scola and so many of the pieces that we had last year, that makes me one of the vets even though I’ve only been here for two years. So with all the rookies and youngsters that we have on the team, all these new pieces, I feel like I have to be what Shane Battier was to us my rookie year. I have to be the first one here, the last one to leave, and every time I’m on the court I have to make sure everyone’s competing and trying their hardest out there.
I have to set an example from the get-go. So whenever we’re doing drills, one-on-ones, shooting drills or whatever it may be, I feel like I have to set the tone, take everything we do seriously and just let my teammates know that I’m out here, the four-spot’s going to be mine, I’m not going to give it up easily and I’m out here to make them better.
JCF: I don’t feel like that sort of leadership role is going to be difficult for you because you’ve been through this process before when you were at Kentucky. Your final year as a Wildcat, you had guys like John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins who, while supremely talented, were still freshmen who needed veteran leadership and guidance, and from a distance you seemed to fill that role perfectly.
PP: Yeah, I was in a perfect situation at Kentucky with John, DeMarcus and Eric Bledsoe. We had those type of players coming into the program who were used to winning but were very young and that made me seem like the older guy on the team. I was a vet, I was the most experienced one and at times it felt like a babysitting job, but other than that it was great and I had a lot of fun.
So it’s kind of a similar situation here in Houston now with a bunch of rookies and a bunch of new faces. Chandler, myself, Marcus and K-Mart have been on this team the longest and so it does feel a bit like déjà vu. That’s why I have to come out there and set the tone from the get-go, be the leader and be the vocal one out on the court, and just do whatever is asked of me by the coaches.
JCF: Well this past week you’ve been much more than just a mentor to these guys; you’ve also been giving them the business on a regular basis, repeatedly taking them to school during many of the one-on-one drills in the low-post. Do you take anything at all from that, or do you just feel like, ‘Hey, I’m the veteran guy, I should be schooling these guys right now?’
PP: All the guys here right now – D-Mo, Terrence, Royce, Greg, Omer – are skilled and have their own special moves. I’m just trying to go out there and show them what I can do, show them how hard I’ve worked and what it takes to succeed at this level. And every time I step out on the court with them I’m definitely going to play my hardest so that hopefully it rubs off on them and they do the exact same thing.
JCF: How are you feeling physically and do you have any specific personal goals for this season?
PP: Physically I feel fine, it’s all about getting my legs and wind back, being able to sustain a high energy for a long period of time, and be able to stay on the court for a long period of time.
For myself, being the starting four is my No. 1 goal right now. As far as my offensive game, I want to be more consistent in the post; last year I relied on my jump shot a lot and this year I want to come in and be a focal point in the post. So I’ve worked on my turnaround and face-up game, a lot on my foot quickness as well, and I want to be even better on defense. I’d love to make the All-Defensive team – that’s a huge goal for me. But my No. 1 goal to start off is to be the starting four.
JCF: During some of your individual work, I saw you bust out some spin moves that were a little reminiscent of Luis Scola. It looks like you learned a thing or two from Luis.
PP: (laughs) Yeah, Scola has definitely rubbed off on me. Throughout this week I threw out some Scola moves against my teammates and luckily they worked, whether it was the Scola ice cream scoop or the “blender” that he does where he uses all those spins. Luis definitely taught me some moves, and I’ve taken a couple other moves that he didn’t show me and I’m trying to utilize them so hopefully they work as well for me as they have for him.
JCF: Off the court I know you’ve had a busy summer, too. I know you went to China and I hear you’ve got a trip to Cabo coming up. So I’m guessing you’ve managed to squeeze some fun in amidst all the work you’ve done this offseason, too.
PP: Yeah, so far this summer I was able to go to Vegas with the team for Summer League and that was a lot of fun being able to watch them and also to enjoy the festivities out there. Right after Vegas I went on a family cruise through the Caribbean islands with my entire family – there were about 18 of us. Right after that, I went to China for about a week. I took my mother and father out there. Then I came straight back to Houston and have been working out ever since. And now I’ve got one more trip to Cabo with a couple friends just to get away for a few days, before coming back here, putting my hard hat back on, and getting to work.