NBA Jock Landale Houston Rockets move hard work only ramps up

Olgun Uluc, ESPN Basketball InsiderJul 3, 2023, 8:43 PM ET6 minute reading

Landale on huge Rockets deal: The phone went bananas, hasn’t sunk in yet

Jock Landale sits down with Olgun Uluc not long after signing a four-year, $32 million deal to join the Houston Rockets.

Jock Landale is still in the process of signing the biggest deal of his professional basketball career.

After two shaky seasons in Europe, a prove-it-or-bust year in the NBL and a couple of up-and-down campaigns in the NBA, Landale finally got the chance to experience what it was like to be a highly sought-after free agent .

The result: a four-year, $[US]32 million deals with the Houston Rockets.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Landale told ESPN on Monday, a day after agreeing to the new deal. “My phone went bananas… obviously it’s something I’ve dreamed of doing for a long time: to be able to earn something like this. Now that it’s here, it feels like another day. I don’t know , whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.”

Landale is coming off a season with the Phoenix Suns that had its ups and downs, but one that ended on a high. The Australian big man played a crucial role for the Suns in the Western Conference Semifinals against the Denver Nuggets, with his work rate and complementary skills making the team’s superstars stand out during the series.

The Suns would be eliminated by the eventual NBA champions, but Landale’s postseason showing was not forgotten. He entered free agency with several suitors, and while there were more secure options on the table for slightly less annual money, he decided to lean into the offer, which was larger but only had the first season fully guaranteed.

Landale’s path to his first significant NBA deal in free agency came with its risks, and he continued the behavior that got him to this point by taking something from someone else.

“I felt like I worked my way up to when I played and when I played heavy minutes I always produced,” Landale said. “If I can get the confidence of a coach who has the front office behind me and they all support the decision, then I absolutely believe I can play to that contract.

“I also feel that since it’s not guaranteed, there’s no way for me to take my foot off the gas, and I feel like that’s really important and kind of plays into my character. I’ve still got to earn everything.”

Jock Landale is moving to the Houston Rockets next NBA season after impressing as part of the Phoenix Suns’ run to the Western Conference SemifinalsChristian Petersen/Getty Images

Landale will join a Rockets team that finished 22-60 last season but is now looking to grow out of its rebuild.

Jalen Green and Alperen Şengün were the Rockets’ two first-round picks in 2021, while naturally there are high hopes for Amen Thompson, who the team took with the fourth overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. After amassing that crop of talented young players, this offseason seemed to be about putting a proven leader in place — signing a new head coach in Ime Udoka — and adding veterans, which is why the team agreed to several big money contracts to start free agency.

Fred VanVleet agreed to a three-year, $130 million deal, while Dillon Brooks joins the team on a new four-year, $[US]contract of DKK 80 million Landale, 28, is another veteran piece for the Rockets, and while there are leadership roles to take, he also sees an increase in opportunity.

“Obviously, Şengün has done a great job of making himself a hell of a starter in the NBA, but you look at his minutes compared to a max player like [Deandre Ayton]and it was just a question of the discrepancy, which is great, says Landale.

Jock Landale looks on during the Phoenix Suns’ NBA game against the Sacramento Kings on March 24, 2023Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

“He plays 28-29 minutes a game, so there are 19-20 minutes available at night. I don’t expect to go into it in any way; when I spoke to Ime, he said you have to come come in and earn it, just like everybody else, I think that’s a healthy style of competition. [I’m] certainly looking forward to that opportunity, but the door is open; I just have to go through it.”

Landale has been training in Melbourne in the off-season with former United teammate David Barlow ahead of training camp with the Australian Boomers in August in the lead-up to the 2023 FIBA ​​World Cup.

Barlow was teammates with Udoka in 2012 when both played for UCAM Murcia in Spain’s Liga ACB, and the pair are in touch regarding Landale’s offseason regime.

Landale projects to bring a different look to the fifth place in Houston. Şengün is a finesse, crafty big man who leans on his post creation, while the Melbourne native plans to continue his high-energy style of play.

“I think I’ve found a role that really fits a mold that every team needs,” Landale said.

“Playing in the gaps, doing all the dirty work; every team needs that. You look at Dillon Brooks, for example. That’s the certified player he is. He’s somebody who comes in and does the dirty work every night and getting the job done at a high level… toward the end of the season I realized that the easiest way for me to do what I’ve done and produce at the level I’ve produced is to do the dirty work and playing off of other people’s creation, and not really trying to force anything.

“That’s going to be the message I’m trying to get across to everybody is: every team needs a guy who’s willing to sacrifice their own numbers and bodies and all that to go out there and help the superstars come solve and make their lives easier This is where I’m really handy, and found out with [Kevin Durant] and [Devin Booker], they needed someone who was willing to do the dirty work for them. It’s the role I see myself sticking with for a long time, and I’m perfectly happy with that. I love it.”

After his first taste of NBA postseason action, Landale wants to play a role in pushing the Rockets toward that level of basketball.

“It feels like we’re at a point now where we’ve got a great crop of young talent, we’ve got arguably one of the best head coaches in the entire NBA; now we’ve got to start producing,” Landale said.

“This is the year we’re going to really start looking to produce with a bunch of young talent coming up. We’ve had these young guys who will have been in the league for three to five years and are coming of age, and it begins to be [that] we can’t be the Houston Rockets of last year, who didn’t necessarily produce at the level we wanted.

“Now we’ve got to start getting into the playoffs, get into those play-in games and really start competing for those spots, and I think that’s where we’ll hopefully be.”

Leave a Comment