Motienjunas worked hard to earn first start
The Rockets had a rare three days off between games. It couldn't have come at a better time, with the Rockets' rotation undergoing a complete makeover.
Last Wednesday, in two separate deals, the Rockets gave up Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas, Cole Aldrich, and Marcus Morris. The Rockets received Thomas Robinson and Francisco Garcia (Tyler Honeycutt got sent to RGV). Tim Ohlbrecht was signed from RGV. Donatas Motiejunas will be starting his first career NBA game at the four.
"I mean, we've been through it before, so right now, we're kind of used to it," Jeremy Lin said. "So I think everybody's learning. Coaches, everybody's doing a good job of communicating and getting here early; understanding our sets and schemes."
James Harden said a lot of progress has been made incorporating all the new pieces into place.
"We get into a little rhythm," Harden said of the extra time. "We get some of our principles back, work on some things offensively, incorporate those new guys in, so tonight (Wednesday against the Bucks) is going to be a big game for us.
"Especially before the All-Star Break, we were just playing games," Harden continued. "We weren't really practicing, just our schedule, but now we have more practice days, which could benefit us going down the late stretch: watching film, correcting things, and getting these new guys acclimated into what we need to do. It's going to be a tough 24 games for us, but these practices are going to help."
The Rockets are 31-27, good enough for eighth in the West, three games up on the Lakers and only two-and-a-half games out from the sixth-seeded Warriors.
Motiejunas downplayed the milestone of getting his first career start, but does acknowledge it's good to see his efforts rewarded.
"It's an incredible feeling, you know," Motiejunas said. "I really put a lot of energy, love, work (into it).
"It feels good when the hard work pays off."
D-Mo's work ethic is almost legendary amongst his teammates.
"Oh yeah, he works hard," Lin said. "From what I understand, he doesn't really take off days. He's in the weight room early. He works really, really hard. So he deserves it (the starting nod)."
"D-Mo's worked hard from Day 1," Harden added. "He's talented enough, but the hard work he puts in every single day, he's finally getting his opportunity at a crucial point in the season. So I think, not only the coaches, but the players have a lot of confidence in him. We know he's going to play well. He's played hard."
But the extra days of practice aided in getting everybody more acclimated with the new rotation.
"This is a brand new team," McHale said. "I'm still trying to figure out their personalities. Then, we added a bunch of new players. We're trying to find out what Tim (Ohlbrecht) can do, how much he can absorb.
"Francisco (Garcia), we're going to have to see what he can do. D-Mo's starting for the first time. You've got Thomas (Robinson). So a lot of new stuff."