The uncertainty of Kyle Lowry's return is a pivotal storyline as the Rockets' season winds down.
The Houston Chronicle reported on Saturday that Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry remains far from a return to the court.
Via the Chronicle: Lowry, 26, was hospitalized March 8 in New York. Even if he is cleared to begin working out in eight to 10 days, which would be a best-case scenario, Lowry would have a long way to go to be able to play after being out for so long, especially with much of that time spent barred from any activity.
In Lowry’s absence in the last nine games, Goran Dragic has played admirably, averaging 17 points and 9 assists as a starter while playing heavy minutes as well. Aside from Dragic, however, Houston is remarkably thin in regard to playmakers, enough so that coach Kevin McHale has experimented with a variety of ways to create offense, from having swingman Courtney Lee and rookie small forward Chandler Parsons playing the point in a pinch, to having the offense run through Luis Scola, who has averaged 3.7 assists the last seven games after averaging 1.7 this season before that stretch.
Houston did sign 5-foot-11 Courtney Fortson to a 10-day contract on March 17, but he has been a mixed bag so far, showing a propensity for recklessness and turnovers. More of a scoring point guard than true playmaker, the Rockets may look elsewhere once his 10-day expires on Tuesday.
The Rockets are not a team that can afford to go without depth at point guard. To be honest, few can, but especially Houston. Their offense is capable of dormant stretches of poor shooting, and that doesn’t bode well when complemented with a defense that is in the bottom 10 of the league. As able as Lee and Parsons are of distributing the ball, they’re better suited on the wings as finishers, Lee with his jump shot and Parsons with his length and quickness at the rim.
Implied in the Chronicle’s report, it sounds likely Lowry may not even play at all this season. His next scheduled check-up in 8-10 days would come around April 4, with 12 games left in the season. Then, if all were to check out in his favor, he’d have to work himself back into basketball shape, which would be at least a week maybe, perhaps even two. Optimistically, the Rockets would be seeing his return April 18, at Dallas, with five games left in the season. However, that is a short amount of period to get acclimated back to Lowry’s way of running things. He and Dragic are polar opposites as far as playing style; Lowry more of a true point guard with a defensive, attack-the-rim deposition, and Dragic more of a scoring playmaker who stands as the better shooter and scorer of the two.
Interestingly enough, Lowry’s game is better suited to the grind and halfcourt style of the postseason. So while Houston is undoubtedly a better team right now with Dragic and Lee taking over for Lowry and the shoulder-ailed Kevin Martin, the fact is that the latter may be more crucial in the playoffs, when possessions are precious and a sure-handed leader and reputable efficient scorer may be more what the doctor ordered.
Nevertheless, this is a storyline to keep an eye on as we head down the final 17 games of the season. The best case scenario is that Lowry and Martin return and have a rejuvenation about them that not only boosts the team, but also allows Dragic and Lee to head back as reserves and again enhance the depth. But, the more this plays out, the more it looks like Lowry may miss a whole lot more time than we once thought, and the original prognosis of “2-4 weeks” could turn into the season, which would not be ideal for a Houston team that lacks playmaking on its roster and won’t find any game-changers on the open market either.