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Rockets First Day of practice at the NBA Restart

Updated: July 11, 2020 -- 9:03 p.m. CT

Posted: July 11, 2020 -- 8:41 p.m. CT

The Houston Rockets had their first day of practice as a team Saturday afternoon in Orlando, Florida, as part of the NBA Restart. James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and new signee Luc Mbah a Moute have not arrived in Orlando, yet; but, Head Coach Mike D'Antoni thinks they'll arrive in a few days.

D'Antoni, P.J. Tucker, and Ben McLemore spoke to the media after practice today via Zoom.

Here are a few of their comments:

"First of all, I hope it's sooner than later," D'Antoni answered regarding when he thinks the team will be full strength. "I don't think it's going to be too many days; so, it'll work itself out. Some things you can't control totally. A few days. They'll be here.

"And, we can get good work in. These are all veterans. Obviously, they're going to miss a couple of practices. It's not ideal. But, we're going to be good. We'll be ready to go. It won't set us back."

D'Antoni is optimistic about the Rockets' chances at success in the NBA Restart.

"I think it's going - obviously, everybody is optimistic right now," he said. "But, I think we have a good shot. We play differently than anybody else. Enthusiasm is great.

"It's the first day of a great journey that we want to go on. We got some of the best players in the league; so, why not? Why not us?"

"It'll be great competition," D'Antoni continued. "I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be fun. It's going to be good for the fans."

D'Antoni mentioned the enthusiasm of the players at today's practice impressed him

"One, it's great to be back with them," D'Antoni commented. "Their enthusiasm is what's great. They're good guys. They work hard."

"We just went over the basics today. Try to touch everything that we were preaching before; and, then, just drill it today. We'll get into 5-on-5 when we go forward. Now, we're assessing everybody; where they are athletically; and where they are shape-wise. It's pretty good. We'll progress.

"There's no trading just being with these guys. They're fighting for the same thing; so, it's a good day."

The team went over their principles on offense and defense today in film session before practicing on the court.

"We went over all our offensive and defensive principles in film; and, then, we got on the floor," D'Antoni commented. "We just drilled it and different aspects of it. Everyday we'll pick a different one.

"One day it will be closeouts. Some days it will be; well, all days will be closeouts. Things that we're not great at, we want to get better. And, offensively, just make sure that we continue to move at the speed that we want to play at.

"But, it's going to be a process. Everyday, we'll adjust our practices to how the guys are feeling. The biggest thing is, I think is, mentally are their hearts into it. Today, they demonstrated yes they are; so, we'll just try to keep it going."

Overall, despite not being able to practice as a team since early March, D'Antoni believes practice went seamless.

"Yeah. For sure. Yeah. It's like anything else," D'Antoni acknowledge. "It seems like a long time; but, once you get into it, it seems like yesterday we were heading to the Lakers to play. That's how life is.

"It's just that, again, I'm excited. I know what we can do. Being around these guys is infectious. No pun intended. But, it's good."

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P.J. Tucker was asked if playing without fans would help the Rockets communicate better defensively and play better with the switching scheme?

"Yeah and no," Tucker said. "We got guys on our team that just don't talk. No matter what. Whether it's fans in the crowd or not. So, we still ain't gonna be able to hear them. So, that's the thing today. We worked on that a lot today. That's going to be huge for us - our defense and the way we play defense. We got to have communication. And still we have a couple of new guys; some guys coming back off injury; this that and the third, we're gonna need everybody to talk and get on the same page and know our language.

Tucker continued, "Know what we're saying, you know, when we make a switches; when we're staying, when we're, you know, getting crack backs. Every single term. We have gotta get everybody to know it and be able to speak out and saying it. So that is a big focus."

I asked Ben McLemore if he had any issues shooting on the practice court inside The Arena.

"I'm a shooter," Ben said point blank. "You know it wasn't difficult at all. I think we just, you know, just trying to adjust to it and then everybody was adjusting and shots was falling. And, obviously, you know, it's the first day of practice and, you know, as the day goes on the days and practicing come along and things will be fine."

McLemore added it didn't take long to adjust to the rims or the shooting background.

"Didn't take that long with just a little up and downs," McLemore said. "I think everybody has to just get that first wind. You know, it's been three months since we had, you know, our seasons taken away. But it was a good experience and a great adjustment. And, obviously, we had a great practice; and, we look forward to the next one."

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