The word and what we heard at Camp Adelman: (Chron.com Link
Rick Adelman had to be thrilled.
His team took to its new offensive philosophy like a Hollywood actress to an Apple-tini.
There was intensity and good competition.
Yao Ming arrived late, but soon enough to show himself in good shape and entirely at ease with his new responsibilities.
Tracy McGrady made Adelman the latest coach to see him work and leave shaking his head in wonder at McGrady’s freaky vision and passing ability.
There is still tons of work to do, far more than can lead to any real conclusions. The Rockets have not put in their set plays, yet. The defense is still a work in progress. Adelman, still experimenting, has not come close to putting players in a rotation they can expect to see in a few weeks in Los Angeles. But this camp was as good a start as he could have hoped to have.
So after six days and seven practices, some trends have emerged.
As expected, I can’t say that I saw enough to have an opinion about anything I witnessed. Adelman raved about the passing of Luis Scola and Chuck Hayes. Between the two of them, I saw one pass, a Hayes bullet to a Justin Reed layup. We heard so much about Mike James’ excellent shooting. I saw him make one shot.
Instead of relying on what I saw, I spent the past three days asking around. This is what I heard the most.
McGrady’s passing continues to amaze. The guy just has tremendous vision. OK, that’s no revelation. But I heard that more than anything else so I had to start there.
Luther Head was terrific. The offense seems ideal for him. He is a guy that cuts hard and cleverly, finishes well and is a good standstill shooter. He does not do much off the dribble, but in this offense he doesn’t have to.
Rafer Alston was outstanding. Even teammates wondered how he would play, given the Rockets’ offseason efforts to replace him. He showed up in great shape, ran things well and looks like someone worth keeping.
Mike James and John Lucas shot well from the first day. That is no surprise with James. He looks like he will flourish this season. Maybe it should not be a surprise with Lucas, either. He has always been a good shooter, but he just never got his shot going last season. I’m convinced he is an NBA player. I’m not sure he is a full-time No. 2 point guard or an emergency No. 3 guy. It probably depends on the team. But he belongs in the league.
Steve Francis had more trouble fitting into the offense. That was expected. This is probably more of an adjustment for him than anyone on the perimeter. He showed that he still gets to the rim, though, and the Rockets believe they need to get that ability in the mix. He did better on the break than in the halfcourt, and there were plenty of breaks.
Mike Harris had a very strong camp. He showed as much or more familiarity with the offense than anyone, having spent more time in Toyota Center this summer than just about everyone. By Saturday, they moved him to the black team with McGrady to see him cut to McGrady passes.
Chuck Hayes was a revelation to the coaches. He had never been asked to pass as he has this week. They were raving about his passing from Day 1. He still is a force defensively. The guy gets so little credit for his defense because when big fours shoot over him, it looks easy. But it’s so tough to get that position on him, when you look back, there are usually just one or two of those moments in a game. Adelman almost always mentioned Hayes and Scola together, indicating that Scola also did well. But Hayes, who is so often unappreciated by the general public, does so much so well, he has to get playing time.
Shane Battier struggled with his shot. I didn’t really ask about him. He’s sort of that good kid in the class you forget about because he’s always there, never any trouble. But he told me that he didn’t shoot well and usually does not early, so I threw that in there.
Aaron Brooks was overwhelmed at times, defensively. That is not unexpected for a rookie going against this offense and in the first few days, he had to go against Head a lot. Opponents are going to hate chasing Head around. Brooks looked pretty good offensively. He was able to find his shots, but did not shoot well.
Hayes gave Carl Landry fits at times. I didn’t really ask about Landry, but when talking about Hayes, several guys mentioned all the trouble his defense — particularly when slapping the ball loose — gave Landry.
Finally, Dikembe Mutombo showed up in better shape than expected. He insists he did not touch a basketball since last season, but did work out. He also landed elbows all over the gym, flattening Francis on Sunday. So after six days, the more things change, the more at least one thing stayed the same.