It was a signing that was an after-thought at first when the Houston Rockets signed an unknown point guard named Patrick Beverley in December 2012. But the former University of Arkansas stand-out, who had been playing in Russia, became a major contributor for the Rockets by the end of the season.
A 2nd round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009, Beverley never played in an NBA regular season game until the Rockets brought him up from the D-League in January. Earning the back-up point guard position, Beverley averaged 5.6 points and 2.9 assists in 41 games, but made an impact in the playoffs. The Rockets shifted their line-up around to include him in the starting line-up in game 2 of the first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In the 6 game series as a whole, Beverley averaged 11.8 points and 2.8 assists, but collided with Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook’s knee that would sideline him for the rest of the playoffs. Beverley instantly became the most hated man in Oklahoma City, and as he sat down with Jason Friedman of Rockets.com, he expressed that the tension between Thunder fans and him will only get worse, among other things:
“JCF: Has the summer helped to put some time and distance between you and being public enemy No. 1 in Oklahoma City?
PB: No, I think it’s just starting to be honest. I’m sure I’m going to feel the heat coming out the tunnel every time I play there. So I think that’s only just getting started.
JCF: I feel like every athlete says something along the lines of, ‘Yeah, I put on 10 pounds of muscle during the offseason,’ but you actually do look legitimately bigger than you did at the end of last season.
PB: Yeah, I think that’s definitely the case. You know, with me coming over from Europe last year, right into the middle of NBA basketball against guys who’d been working on their bodies all summer, I felt like I was at a bit of a disadvantage at times. With Europe, it’s more of a finesse game so I really didn’t need the extra weight. I’ve been lifting five times a week this summer so I’ve gained about six or seven pounds of good weight.
That was my biggest thing: I play against a lot of bigger point guards and I didn’t want to go into games this season where they outweigh me by 20 pounds. So I’ve tried to make it up in the weight room this summer.
JCF: I think everyone knows this team is going to score. So for the Rockets to become a true title contender the biggest area of improvement likely lies on the defensive side of the ball. You’ve got two of the best defensive bigs in the NBA now so from a perimeter player’s perspective, what are you focusing on when you’re out there to be able to help out those bigs and, by extension, help this team become a top-10 defensive unit?
PB: I talked to Coach Sampson a lot this summer and I told him I want to try to take it upon myself to be that defensive captain this year. I understand when I’m out there it starts with me on the ball. I’m not going to try to pretend I’m going to control the whole defense – of course not – we have Dwight Howard who’s phenomenal, Omer who’s phenomenal, Marcus Camby who is older but still a great defensive player, Ronnie Brewer who is a great defensive player, and Francisco (Garcia) showed a glimpse of that in the playoffs last year guarding Kevin Durant.
But I have to pick my role and my role right now is to be that defensive guy who sets the tone on the player who has the ball the most and that’s the point guard. That’s my focus. I’m taking the title of defensive captain very seriously and that’s my main focus going into training camp.
I’m going to work as hard as I can possibly work. Everyone knows that. For me it’s all about winning games. I’ve played on great teams. I was with the Heat in training camp, I played on some great European teams and I know what it takes to win. It doesn’t just take five guys or five stars – it takes a team. It goes from the main players – James and Dwight – all the way down to the last player or the last film guy or the last ball boy or whoever. It’s a collective unit.
I know the kind of mindset a good basketball team needs to have: whether you’re starting or not, you have to make sure you’re a big part of this team whether it’s with defense or an energy spark off the bench or whatever the case may be. Whatever my team needs from me, I’m going to be there for them. That’s what all of this work is for.”
It’s a good sign that Beverley realizes that he could provide that defensive spark for the Rockets along the perimeter. Houston ranked in the bottom of the league in defensive production and efficiency a season ago, but they have made strides in the off-season to fix that area. The low post defense should not be a problem as Dwight Howard and Omer Asik will man the middle, but the perimeter defense will be one of the biggest question marks for the Rockets entering training camp.