BY: KYLE ADAMS
TWITTER: @KYLE 0788
Kyle Lowry returned to the Rockets on Sunday night against the Kings after being out a month with a bacterial infection. It was a return much anticipated, adding strength and depth to a Houston team in the thick of a playoff race.
Lowry started slow, missing all his three shots in 18 minutes against the Kings while tallying seven assists. He played much better 24 hours later, however, recording 13 points (on 5-for-6 shooting), four rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 23 minutes against the Trail Blazers before almost single-handily returning his team back from the dead Wednesday against Utah, with a 14-point, 3-assist fourth quarter that ultimately ended up a bit short against an inspired Jazz team.
I think he is best suited to come off the bench for the remainder of the season, not just because he needs to slowly be brought back into the rotation, but mostly because Goran Dragic is playing phenomenal. Since Lowry went down, Dragic has become the heart and soul of the team. As a starter over 17 games, Dragic has averaged 18.2 points, 8.7 assists and 2 steals, while shooting 51.9 percent from the field and 44.2 percent from 3-point range. The Rockets are 11-6 in those games.
Dragic will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, and with Lowry signed through 2014, he will most likely walk unless Lowry is traded to pursue a starting role with another team. Lowry is averaging 15.4 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals this season, and I think it’s safe to say the Rockets are better with the return of Lowry. Courtney Fortson and Earl Boykins at times showed good play at the backup point, but Lowry and Dragic are the best 1-2 punch at the point guard spot in the NBA, no matter who starts. Dragic went from playing around 20 minutes a game as a backup to averaging 37 in his last five games. He is not accustomed to playing over 30 minutes a night, and with the Rockets’ playoff hopes looking bright, Dragic is going to need some of those minutes to go somewhere else, and Lowry is more than capable of taking them on.
And with Lowry coming off the bench, Dragic will have the opportunity to get off more shots, as they thrive when they are on the floor at the same time. If you saw the Portland game on Monday night, for most of the fourth quarter they were on the court together, and the Rockets came out with a 94-89 win. With eight games remaining, I think Kevin McHale is going to shorten his rotation even more, and when he does, it should look like this: Dragic, Courtney Lee, Chandler Parsons, Luis Scola, and Marcus Camby as the starters, with Lowry backing up Dragic, Chase Budinger backing up Parsons, Patrick Patterson backing up Scola, Samuel Dalembert backing up Camby, and Lowry and Budinger switching off when Lee needs a break, depending on the matchups and who has the hot hand, while Dalembert could also play with Camby depending on the matchups.
With this team, and McHale running it, the core players will benefit from having two great point guards as the playoffs get closer. It’s a luxury. The return of Lowry gives the Rockets a lot more options on both ends of the floor. Lowry’s return will help the Rockets greatly, while Kevin Martin’s possible return could damage the Rockets’ playoff chances. Either way, whatever role Lowry has, he is going to cause havoc on the opposition every night like he always has.