News » ROCKETS TRAINING CAMP Alexander adopts guarded outlook Injury voids bring season full of uncertainty

ROCKETS TRAINING CAMP Alexander adopts guarded outlook Injury voids bring season full of uncertainty

ROCKETS TRAINING CAMP Alexander adopts guarded outlook Injury voids bring season full of uncertainty ABOUT CAMP

When/where: Beginning today in Houston with a portion of the time also spent in McAllen.

Preseason opener: Oct. 6 at San Antonio.

Season opener: Oct. 27 at Portland.

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander did not feign the familiar boundless optimism. There is too much uncertainty about the season for that. Instead, he sounded curious to find out how all the changes will work.

With players reporting today and practice beginning Tuesday, Alexander heads into his 17th season as Rockets owner with the team coming off its best season in more than a decade but forced to regroup in the wake of Yao Ming's latest foot injury and Tracy McGrady's rehab from knee surgery.

Alexander spoke of his expectations for the season, the future of Yao, McGrady and coach Rick Adelman, and his preference for fast-break Basketball. (Citing league policy, Alexander would not address the NBA's collective bargaining negotiations with players and officials.)

Q. What do you expect of this team?

LA: "We'll play hard. We'll play smart. We'll have a great running game. We'll see how far we go with that."

Q. General manager Daryl Morey said making the playoffs would be a worthwhile goal. Is that how you look at it? Is making the playoffs a good season, falling short a bad season?

LA: "I don't know how well young players are going to play. I don't know how quickly Trevor (Ariza) is going to fit in the system. I don't know how David Andersen is going to fit in. I don't know how we're going to get a running game going. It's hard to judge anything this early this year."

Q. Have you ever gone into a season with this much uncertainty?

LA: "I don't think so, because there are so many new players who are going to be pivotal to our season. They tell me Chase (Budin-ger) is playing absolutely fantastic in practice. I think at some point Jermaine (Tay-lor) is going to come on. The big factor we don't know is when Tracy will come back healthy. So this is a season of unknowns."

Q. Is that frustrating?

LA: "There's only so much you can control. If you can't control it, what can you do? You can't fight it. You can't get upset with it, because there is nothing you can do about it."

Q. You mentioned the plan to be more up-tempo. How much is because it fits this roster as opposed to just being a style you like?

LA: "I felt for years, if you play up-tempo and play really good defense, then you are really tough to beat. If you look at Daryl's statistics, if you get a couple extra baskets a game or if you get those open 3-pointers in an up-tempo game and you make those hoops, you are very difficult to beat if you play good defense."

Q. Then why for so many years have you built the team around relatively slower players in Yao and McGrady?

LA: "I've discussed this with CD (senior consultant Carroll Dawson) and with Daryl many times. You can run with Yao. In fact, it would save him a lot. A lot of times Yao would get the rebound, toss it out to one of the players, and they're off. He doesn't have to run. He can save his energy. Tracy was injured. That's why he couldn't run. A lot of stuff about Tracy - ballplayers always want to play hard. Great players always want to play hard and win. Tracy was injured. People didn't know how injured he was."

Q. Was his health McGrady's only or his primary shortcoming last year? Do you have any mis-givings about anything else?

LA: "When somebody is not healthy, they can't be their best. It's impossible."

Q: He's obviously had some health problems, and Yao's had a few, too.

LA: "A lot."

Q. So with the advantage of hindsight, do you regret building around them?

LA: "No. I mean, when you get a chance (to acquire) truly great players, you do. You cannot just say, ?OK, I'm going to get a great player tomorrow.' So when you can, you have to build around them."

Q. The prognosis we have heard since Yao's surgery - and really, before it - has been very encouraging. Do you still plan to build around him?

LA: "We plan on putting him in the middle. When you have a great player, especially a big man, you just can't find them. How many are in the NBA? Two or three?

Q. Does Tracy have to determine his future with the Rockets this season?

LA: "A lot of people want to say that. But he's a terrific player. When he's healthy, he can help you win and go far in the playoffs. That's the kind of player I want."

Q. The irony in that is that he's never gone far in the playoffs.

LA: "Yeah, but I want to go over that, because this really bugs me. When he was healthy and we played Dallas, we didn't have Bobby Sura, who was our point guard. We didn't have Juwan Howard, who was our starting power forward, and we almost beat them in a seven-game series with Tracy and Yao. Tracy was magnificent. He guarded (Dirk) Nowitzki very well. I thought he (McGrady) was the best player in the league at that time. Subsequent to that, he had injuries that took him down. Hopefully, he's over those injuries and will be a great player again."

Q. ( Rockets CEO) Tad Brown said season-ticket sales have been good, ahead of the previous pace in Toyota Center, but obviously, you are aware of what's going on around the league. How concerned are you looking ahead, and how might that impact decision-making?

LA: "Since I've owned the club, I haven't let how business has gone affect how we operate the team to win. I don't see it happening in the future."

Q. Going back to where we started, it is obviously a year with uncertainty. How does that impact, if it does, the decision about whether to give Rick and his staff extensions prior to their last year under contract?

LA: "My feeling is Rick has done a great job. He's under contract."

Q. Assistant coach Elston Turner has drawn interest as a head coach and done some interviews. Do you have any thoughts about Rick's successor down the line?

LA: "Right now, we have no idea. When Rick decides, we'll start the process, but it's way too early to know anything."

Q. No concern about a coach's authority in a lame-duck situation?

LA: "Phil Jackson coaches year to year on a one-year contract."

Q. Finally, going back to the uncertainty, do you think Basketball fans in Houston will be OK with that?

LA: "I read the stuff the fans say. I read the Houston Chronicle every day, and I read the fans' comments to different articles, and they are always saying that as an organization, we look to the future and are trying to do the best that we can. We're obviously going to have our ups and downs. You can't have a great year every year, but we are truly trying our best to win. They're behind us. That's all you can ask for."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: September 30, 2009


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