HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — In the interest of full disclosure, we should begin by saying we were skeptics when the Houston Rockets decided to hand Kyle Lowry the keys to the franchise and trade away Aaron Brooks.
It’s not that we aren’t fans of Lowry’s daredevil style and fearless approach to any and every challenge that stands in his way. Truth be told, that’s what we love about his game, that and the fact that he looks like your prototypical NFL free safety in a basketball uniform.
But we just weren’t sure if he was right fit for the Rockets.
It’s a good thing general manager Daryl Morey is the man in charge of making Houston’s decisions, because he understood what this team needed and didn’t waste time acting on it.
For all the things Brooks gave the Rockets — a scoring threat with seemingly unlimited range, a swashbuckling young point guard who made up for a lack of size with a huge heart and competitive drive to spare — he was never the take-charge floor leader the Rockets needed.
Lowry is and shows it off on a nightly basis these days (triple doubles, and his Western Conference Player of the Week honor that was just announced today).
And the proof is in the results. The Rockets have come back from the abyss earlier this season to shove their way into the Western Conference playoff picture with Lowry fueling their push. The Rockets sit just two games behind Memphis in the loss column, and trail them by 1.5 games for the eighth and final spot in the West with two weeks to plug away and scrap their way into the postseason.
If it happens, even at the expense of our beloved Hang Time Grizzlies, it would be a huge accomplishment for these Yao Ming-less Rockets, who lost Yao (ankle) and Shane Battier (traded back to the Grizzlies) from their mix this season.
If it happens, there is no doubt that Lowry’s DNA will be found all over the Rockets’ playoff ticket. Because as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle makes clear, Lowry has clearly taken his game to another level:
All those times the Rockets could not beat the Jazz in close games, the difference was clear. The Jazz had Deron Williams. The Rockets did not.
They do now, but they call him Kyle Lowry.
Whether Lowry actually is playing at that level – with Williams often considered the league’s best point guard, at least back when he was tormenting the Rockets – really does not matter.
What he is doing – anything necessary – has been remarkable, and the biggest reason the Rockets have turned things around.
Rarely has that been clearer than Sunday. It was not just that Lowry had the first triple double of his career, or that he scored his 28 points on just 14 shots, or that he had a career best 11 rebounds or that he added three steals or that he had 10 assists while getting just one turnover in his 44 minutes on the floor.
As with so many Rockets games lately, he seemed to get his points when they were needed most, when the offense struggled or the energy seemed to be slipping. He made decisions that led to more scoring by other than even the assists demonstrated. His stats on Sunday were better than in other games, but he was in command of the game the way he has been so often lately.
“The way Kyle is playing now, he’s our floor general,” Chuck Hayes said. “He’s going to get whoever is in rhythm their shots. If it’s himself, he’ll know it. If it’s Kevin (Martin), he’ll get something for Kevin. Right now, he’s playing great, not only from a statistical standpoint, but as a leader, as a floor general.”
Even if Lowry isn’t really one of the league’s elite point guards, he’s doing a fantastic job impersonating one — 20.4 points, 7.9 assists and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the floor in his last 10 games — right now for the Rockets.
And who knows, if he leads them to the playoffs we might have to find a way to squeeze his name into the conversation of the young point guards (yes, at 24 he still qualifies as young) on the rise!