MANILA, Philippines – The first practice by the Indiana Pacers and the Houston Rockets on this first ever visit to the Philippines was nothing short of a blast.
Two days before they take the floor in the first ever pre-season game to be played in the country at the MOA Arena in Pasay City, the Pacers and the Rockets took the floor separately with the former scrimmaging at first followed by the latter.
In between was the media day.
With the exception of Hall-of-Famer Pacers president Larry Bird, practically every player and coaches of both Indiana and Houston granted interviews.
The story of Taiwanese-American Jeremy Lin, the new face of Asian basketball after Chinese Yao Ming relinquished the mantled following retirement, however, was the most inspiring of all having come out of the backdoor to reach stardom.
"I'm thankful to have the chance to inspire people especially my fellow Asians because I want them to see that dreams do come true if you don't give up and you keep on persevering," said the 25-year-old Lin.
Lin, of course, is not only one of the most popular NBA players in Asia today but also has an inspiring to tell having been sent in out of the NBA and the Developmental League several times and eventually cut by the Golden State Warriors and, ironically, the Rockets.
He found a place with the Knicks where he started as fourth-string point guard before getting a chance to start in one unforgettable stretch in February last year when New York went on an unbelievable streak that spawned "Linsanity."
Dwight Howard also talked about the Rockets' strong chance of making it deep into the playoffs of this coming NBA season.
"I knew in my heart Houston will be a better fit for me because I really want to work with (coach) Kevin McHale and work with James Harden," said Howard. "We will be a great team this year."
Paul George, whose Pacers came a game away from unseating reigning back-to-back NBA champion Miami Heat last season, said he is ready to embrace his new role as the star of the team.
"I'm not saying I'll score and defend more, but I'm promising to be more aggressive this year," said George, who is only 23 years old but has reached Top 10 status in the NBA after a spectacular season.
Coaches Frank Vogel of the Pacers and Kevin McHale of the Rockets thought of each other as potential champions.
"The Rockets are a stronger team this year, they have a chance to win a championship this year," said Vogel, who at 40 is one of the youngest coaches in the NBA today.
"Indiana was already strong last season and with key additions headed by Luis Scola, expect them to contend," McHale, for his part, said.
Roy Hibbert, who is Indiana's best big man, said the Pacers have truly improved a lot.
"We're definitely a better and deeper team this year because of Scola, CJ Watson and Chris Copeland and I'm excited of our chances and how far we would go," he said.