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News » Landry striving to refine talent Forward tries to meet Rockets' high expectations

Landry striving to refine talent Forward tries to meet Rockets' high expectations

Landry striving to refine talent Forward tries to meet Rockets' high expectations Rockets UPDATE

Friday: Rockets 105, Thunder 94.

Record: 4-2.

Tuesday: At Dallas Mavericks , 7:30 p.m.

TV/radio: FSH; 610 AM and 850 AM (Spanish).

There have always been flashes, moments that seemed to herald more to come.

There was the offensive board and slam that spiked the ball into Tim Duncan's face. There was the blocked shot and rebound that saved a playoff game in Utah. There were pick-and-roll cuts to the basket at Dallas, each ended with chin-ups on the rim.

Carl Landry always did just enough to seem capable of more. Maybe it was the way he did things, with athleticism rare in the Rockets' frontcourt.

Highlights tend to escalate expectations. But this was not just perception. Landry, too, began his third NBA season expecting more.

"This is an opportunity for me to grow as a player," Landry, 26, said. "This is my third year and usually the year a player becomes who he is going to become for the rest of his career. I want to grow in all aspects of the game and be that player."

The Rockets want more than that from him. They need it. The need him to run the floor consistently, to defend reliably and attack offensively.

In his first two seasons, he averaged 8.8 points, making 58.9 percent of his shots, and grabbing 4.9 rebounds.

In six games this season, he has averaged 14.3 points and 6.2 rebounds in just 25.2 minutes per game. For the first time in his career, he scored at least 20 points in consecutive games, getting 20 against the Lakers and 21 against the Thunder.

Still, in one sense, nothing has changed. Landry wants more.

"Usually, it's that third year when a player goes to that next level," Landry said. "I'm trying to get there. I still have a ways to go. I want to be an All-Star player in this league. I'm learning the game day-by-day. The coaches are doing a good job helping me. I'm soaking up as much as I can.

"Pushing myself and at the same time listening to my teammates when they think I should do something and I'm not doing it. Listening to the coaching staff. Watching more film. Learning from players like Hakeem (Olajuwon), when he was around, or Clyde (Drexler), when I see him in the hallway, asking them how can I improve my game. Little things. Being a sponge and taking advantage of the opportunities around me."

Coaches' encouragement

He has not had to look far for feedback. Rockets coaches have been insistent that he needs to run the floor better, an area in which he has improved since the preseason and excelled Friday. Coach Rick Adelman has instructed him to attack one-on-one defenses, and has called on him late in several games.

"I'm not used to that role," said Landry, a 6-9 forward. "This year, it's a role I've been given and I'm willing to accept. If I'm not double-teamed, I have to be aggressive and put the ball in the hoop.

"My teammates trust me offensively when I'm down low and I have the ball in my hands. So does the coaching staff. That gives me confidence."

Most of all, he has been consistent. After struggling badly in the season opener, when he missed nine of 12 shots and many defensive assignments, he has been reliable defensively and scored in double figures in every game since. It is his longest streak of double-digit scoring since he was hurt during the Rockets' 22-game winning streak in the 2007-08 season. In the past two games, he has made 17 of 22 shots.

"Carl has played extremely well," Adelman said. "He's really consistent. He's someone the other team does have to worry about because he's really quick and explosive to the basket.

"We got to keep encouraging him to run the floor the way he has been lately and get good opportunities down there because he's quicker than most guys who play him. If he runs the floor, he's going to get easier baskets. But he's been terrific. He's played very consistent every time he's played."

More responsibility

This, Landry said, comes with maturity. Landry had been a contributor before, but had not been needed the way he is now.

"There is," he said, "more need. I've seen pick-and-rolls. I've seen flare screens. I've been in Game 7s, I've been in game situations with three seconds to go and our opposing team is trying to take the game-winning shots. Experience. I'm growing. I'm maturing. I'm more mature than I was last year and the year before. That's what I want. I want to become a better player."

To do that, he knew he would have to produce more than flashes. He was just as certain he could.

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Added: November 10, 2009


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