Houston Rockets training camp kicked off this Saturday; I was at home. Just six weeks post-op from ACL and meniscus reconstruction, I wasn’t yet up to the task for driving. But after getting clearance, I hobbled into my car and made the trek down to Toyota Center yesterday. When I got there, I was told practice had ended early and everyone had already left. Luckily, media had not been allowed to view the scrimmage session as had been the case in the days before. So I tried again today, leaving a few hours early, and got lucky: we were allowed in to watch a good ten to fifteen minutes of scrimmage.
As the first game was wrapping up, a couple of minutes into our time there, I suddenly realized I hadn’t hit record. Cut me some slack, dear reader, I was leaning on a crutch under the other shoulder. I cursed myself and started rolling.
The video above is highly edited for timing purposes. I cut out all of the dead balls, timeouts, and free throws to condense things down. I hope no one reads too much into this footage: scrimmages are basically glorified pickup games. Yeah, the coaches are yelling but they’re not exactly instituting their playbook especially while we’re on the sidelines rolling tape. And guards tend to look a lot better in these kinds of settings.
While one shouldn’t interpret too much with respect to team dynamics from a scrimmage, the one thing that can be gleaned is skillset and individual skill development. To that end, the two guys that stood out today were Terrence Jones and Jeremy Lin.
The reports of Lin’s improved shooting form weren’t exaggerated. Here’s a clip from after practice of Jeremy and Chandler Parsons getting up some shots.
The shot is much smoother and doesn’t have the awkward hitch which plagued it in Jeremy’s first two seasons. I wasn’t recording, but they were shooting at a different spot as well and he made the majority that I saw.
But the real moment of the day can be seen in the first clip when Lin drives the lane and actually uses his left hand to finish. I quipped on Twitter that I felt like a mother watching her child taking his first steps, in disbelief. And subsequently like ten of you tweeted the same “he’s changed, bro” joke to me.
In all seriousness, this was one of Jeremy’s biggest weaknesses last season. While he could dribble, he couldn’t explode in that direction off of that leg and I certainly had never seen him finish with that hand. In the past, to circumvent his inability to finish with the hand, he’d actually jump off the other leg and do a reverse right handed layup. While the finish today looked a bit awkward, it is clear he’s been working hard on his game over the summer and I’m glad to see the results are paying off.
As for Jones, he was probably the star of the day, if there can be a star of a five minute training camp scrimmage. He nailed two or three long buckets and attacked the paint off the dribble. But my favorite moments undoubtedly came when he stole/rebounded the ball and rather than passing off to a guard, brought the ball downcourt himself, initiating the break. If the staff allows him to continue doing that in games, it will really help the team push the pace. I wouldn’t say Jones is the favorite to start at power forward on opening night due to what I saw today, but coupled with the rave reviews he’s received from Dwight Howard, maybe there’s something there. We’ll just have to wait and see but for now, Jones might be the most intriguing player on the roster for a junkie like myself, and that is really saying a lot.
It’s good to see Aaron Brooks back out there, even if he probably won’t figure into the team’s plans. Crazy to think he’s still just 28 and should be in the prime of his career. Instead, the guy many thought was on the fringe of All-Stardom is barely hanging on. A funny moment came when he emphatically blocked a Dwight Howard shot attempt out of bounds and gave Howard an earful. When asked about it afterwards, Howard joked that that’s how little guys are.
Another funny exchange came between Chandler Parsons and James Harden, lasting almost a full minute, as the two argued over a call. “I didn’t even touch you, Chandler.” “So I just fell backwards on my own?”