ORLANDO — As the Houston Rockets took on the Magic in each team’s first game of its 2023-24 regular season, first-year head coach Ime Udoka put in a game plan for rookies Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore that will be more about the flow of the game, rather than a standard for minutes.
“I think we go in with somewhat of a plan rotation-wise and then figure out the game from there based on how they are playing,” Udoka said. “Different situations math up wise, but we also like certain combinations, and we have seen that from Amen and Cam.”
“So, we will go with this game plan, and how they react to everything is how we will react to them playing more,” Udoka said. “But there is not a set amount of time, and everyone is competing for minutes. It is not like we are handing over minutes based on them being rookies.”
Thompson, who will mainly be used as a backup to veteran point guard Fred VanVleet, averaged over 20 minutes a game in the preseason. Whitmore averaged 17.8 minutes, as his playing time fluctuated across those five games. His minutes could increase with second-year forward Tari Eason sidelined by a lower leg injury.
“I think we go in with somewhat of a plan rotation-wise and then figure out the game from there based on how they are playing,” said Udoka about his rookies. #Rockets #Sarge @TheRocketsWire pic.twitter.com/hK1UXkl9EJ
— #SARGE (@BigSargeSportz) October 25, 2023
Coach Udoka also realizes that this is the first real NBA action for his two rookies. As such, he does not want to put any undue pressure on them, even when they struggle.
“Some of these guys are in their first real game, yet alone; they are young guys,” Udoka responded when asked how he would adjust to some of the rookie mistakes. “You are not going to judge a guy off of a half of missed shots or turnovers. Obviously, we have to coach them up and point those things out. I am not into yanking a guy out of the game; I would rather him play nine or ten minutes as opposed to three guys for three minutes. They will get their chance.”