Coach Rick Adelman did the media right again on Thursday, granting access to us well before practice was over so that we could see the tail end of the Rockets scrimmage.
This time we were asked to try to keep any noise down as coach was still stopping scrimmages to instruct players on where they were supposed to be in the new offensive sets.
When I came in, former Rockets GM Carroll Dawson was on his cell phone. Maybe old habits are hard to break and he's doing some roster shopping, but that's a huge reach.
The current GM, Daryl Morey, did come over to say hello to me. He had high praise for how hard the players are working in practice, and said they really have a lot of good players this year.
Yeah, I said, but with 19-20 contracts, are there too many?
"Well, I think that's a good problem to have," said Morey with a smile.
Can't disagree with that.
Tracy McGrady was again sitting on the sidelines watching the scrimmage action unfold. He's obviously practicing, but for the second day in a row, he's been kicking back in the director's chair when we get in. I keep expecting him to stand up and say, "aaaaaaand, CUT! That's a wrap!"
Bonzi Wells also was sitting out (expected), as was Chuck Hayes (not expected). Chuck had injured his foot when Carl Landry landed on him in on-court action, but he said it wasn't serious and he should be back tomorrow.
Steve Francis was in there, though I didn't see anything noteworthy from him. John Lucas III made a tough running 9-foot floater and oohed and aahed about it on the way back up the floor. Rafer even pulled up on a fast break and nailed a three, which scared me a little because I've heard about that happening from time to time but I've never really seen it in person.
Speaking of Rafer, the guy is a New Yorker to the bone. He was yelling to everyone in attendance to make sure to watch a "real" baseball playoff team in the Yankees tonight. He had some unkind words for the Cubs too.
One guy who continues to impress me some is Mike Harris. Granted we don't see much action, but he looks quick and strong. On one fast break he trailed the ball and came flying in to slam home a miss. I asked Adelman later if Harris has a shot on a team with 19+ contracts.
"Harris has been good since the very first day we had him in the summer and he's been very, very good in this camp," said Adelman. "The kid is just tough and he finds a way to be successful whatever position he plays. He's someone that we like a lot. I don't know about the contracts -- I'm just looking at the guys who come out here to play and Mike's been impressive to us since the first day we had him."
After saying that, the Rockets coach wanted to make it clear that he didn't just hand Harris a roster spot.
"That doesn't mean... you know, he has a long ways to go, but he's a kid who really busts his tail."
I got the chance to ask questions of Adelman, T-Mac, Rafer and Mike James, and all that audio is available in the media player. I wanted to catch Shane Battier as well, but he stayed late to shoot free throws and then was accompanied to the adjacent court where the UT women's basketball team (I think) was waiting to take a picture with Battier.
I did get to ask James though what he thought the difference was for him between Toronto (insane numbers for a point guard: 46.9% shooting from the field and 44.2% from long range) and Minnesota (dropped to 42.2% and 37.2%).
"It was just a mental game," said James. "I felt like I never fit in Minnesota. I never fit their system and never played to my potential. I just got in to a rut early and stayed in it. It's no excuse but to myself, but every day I remember my season in Minnesota and ever day it makes me focus on what not to do. One thing I'm going to do is play ball with a smile on my face for the rest of my career."
At Media Day, Bonzi acted as if he really wasn't different physically than he was last year (even though it was obvious he was in much better shape). T-Mac confirmed that Bonzi had lost "30 pounds", but mocked him sitting out most of the practices by joking that "he's being lazy as hell right now".
Yao arrived in Houston today and is expected to be in Austin later today, ready to practice for the first time under Adelman in the first of Friday's two practice sessions. That will be my final session before heading home to Houston.