Houston (CBS Houston) – The Houston Rockets had their final day of practice before getting the playoffs started at home against the Mavericks. There were plenty of news and notes from the day.

Trash Talking

With Mark Cuban’s comments hot off the presses earlier in the day a few Rockets weighed in on what the Mavericks owner had to say.

Trevor Ariza hadn’t heard the comments until the media alerted him to what Cuban said but he was quick to dismiss the billionare.

“It really doesn’t matter what anybody says,” said Ariza. “We know what we have in here. We feel we’re capable of being a championship contending team.”

Josh Smith decided to let it get settled on the court.

“We just gotta play man,” Smith said. “We’re not gonna go into the back and forth talk. That’s the things or tactics that [Cuban] likes to do and we’re not focused on anything that anybody on that side has to say.”

James Harden offered nothing but two words when he was asked about Cuban.

“No comment,” was all the MVP candidate had to say.

Head coach Kevin McHale did joke that he would be trash talking Rick Carlisle as soon as he saw him.

Free Throws 

The Rockets suffered from the line down the stretch in large part thanks to intentional fouling from teams on players like Joey Dorsey and Josh Smith. The latter knows the team is ready to deal with the strategy should they see it again.

“We’re mentally strong and mentally prepared,” said Smith who was the target of the intentional fouls in multiple games at the end of the season. “Guys have been coming in and getting extra shots in, extra free throws to be able to be focused for those moments.

“If it does come hopefully we can make them pay and knock them down.”

Kevin McHale had a simple solution.

“Make ’em,” said the coach. “We say ’em. That’d be the best thing.”

He followed those comments with the sarcastic comment the team is trying to make every single free throw “really really really really really hard.”

Dwight’s Minute Management

McHale said the team would “let him play a little bit more” but “he’s not gonna play 40 minutes” saying Howard would be in the low 30’s.

Howard averaged just over 23 minutes per game in April’s regular season games and played 28 minutes against New Orleans last weekend as the highest total since his return from his knee injury.

Back Again 

Josh Smith is back in the playoffs after an absence from post-season play. So is Jason Terry. Corey Brewer is getting an extensive look at late-April play as well.

James Harden knows the desire for success in the playoffs is contagious throughout the team.

“We have a lot of guys that are motivated and want to get back to the winnings ways,” said Harden.

Terrence Jones said the team is back in the playoffs and can only learn from their early exit last year.

Josh Smith said he was blessed to be back on a team in the hunt for a title. He said he relishes the chance to give the team and himself the opportunity to “do something special.”

As much as there is a big picture goal Trevor Ariza isn’t forgetting the immediate goal of opening the series at home with a win. He stressed the one play at a time and one game at a time mantras and said they can’t slip in each game’s individual preparations.

Kevin McHale stressed all the team left now are tough teams and called winning 16 games in a 2 months, which would be a championship run, is one of the hardest thing to do in sports.

“Our task at hand is to play Saturday’s game,” he said. “We’ve got to play Saturday’s game. After that they’ll make adjustments, we’ll make adjustments then we’ll play Tuesday night’s game.

“Are we ready to play? I hope so. If we’re not ready to play then you’re in the wrong business.”

Follow Stoots on Twitter – @Cody_Stoots

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