NBA PM: Lowry Emerging in Houston
Who is the best point guard in NBA?
It’s not an easy question but atop of that list might be reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose. How about Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers? Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics? Even at his advanced age, Steve Nash has to be in that conversation.
One name that needs consideration, at least as the top emerging point guard, is Houston’s Kyle Lowry.
Through six games, the Rocket guard is averaging 10 assists a game, just a hair below Rondo’s league-leading 10.7.
Houston started the season at 2-2 before back-to-back losing visits to the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, and while it’s difficult to say if the Rockets will crack the top eight in the West, the team has taken on Lowry’s scrappy personality.
“He’s mentally and physically tough. He’s very quick with the basketball and he’s strong,” said Los Angeles Lakers Coach Mike Brown of Lowry. “[He knows] how to play the game and right now they’re playing the right way, and that leads to his strengths.”
Now in his sixth season, Lowry began his career as a reserve in Memphis and originally joined the Houston starting lineup when incumbent Aaron Brooks was down with an ankle injury.
It didn’t take long for Houston to recognize what they had with Lowry starting 71 games while averaging 6.7 assists per game; Brooks was eventually dealt to the Phoenix Suns.
“I think I’m going to get better every single year. More years, more time,” said Lowry. “The more opportunity, the more minutes, you’re going to get better because you’re on the floor and you’re getting more rhythm and more reps.”
From the start of his career, Lowry had to fight for minutes. The notion that opportunity alone is the reason for his success doesn’t hold true given the minutes some more-heralded players might walk into yet never come close to reaching their potential.
“That’s part of how I was brought up,” said Kyle. “I was brought up hard-nosed, my mother taught me to do things the hard way and I’ve never been given anything. I was never ranked high. I was never the guy, top high school player. I just went out there and worked hard and did what I could do to try to get better.”
During the offseason, Lowry could be found at Joe Abunassar’s Impact Basketball in Las Vegas. While a number of pros participated in a light-hearted summer league, Kyle was focused, diligent and dominating.
“I take everything seriously. Basketball is my job, it’s my life. It’s my livelihood,” said Lowry. “I love to play the game. Even probably if I’m not getting paid I would want to play this game. I played the game for free when I was younger. Right now I’m just getting paid to do a job that I love and the opportunity to live the life that I’m very fortunate to have.”
Lowry is one of many dynamic NBA point guards but he may be the best individual defender of the bunch. He’s always finding ways to impact the game and help his team win.
Recently MVP Derrick Rose visited the Clippers and he spoke of his admiration for Chris Paul.
“He’s a guard where doesn’t need to score the ball to win a game. It’s hard to stick that,” said Rose. “I think [Paul] and Rondo are the like the best in the NBA where they don’t have to shoot not a single shot but still can affect the game and give their teammates a lot of confidence. That’s something that I would want to put in my game but it’s going to take a little time.”
Lowry is averaging a career-high 15.3 points a game but recently had one of those special games against the Atlanta Hawks.
Despite missing all six of his field goal attempts (scoring two points on a pair of free throws), Lowry helped lead his team to an 11-point victory with a career-high 18 assists.
“Usually when you ask your team, how many guys think they can help win a game if you’re 1-8 from the field?” asked Rockets Coach Kevin McHale. “He’s a baller. He just goes out and plays . . . For us to get to be the type of team that we’ve got to become, we’ve got have eight, nine, 10 guys that say I can help this team even if I go 1-7.”
In Lowry’s estimation, that’s what a point guard is supposed to do.
“I just go out there and I do what I need to do for my team to win,” said Kyle. “Like Derrick said, Rondo’s one of the best at it, you’ve got guys who got out there and just know how to play the game. [Jason] Kidd does the exact same thing. Steve [Nash] can do it. Those guys know how to play the game and get their teammates involved and know how to be affective without scoring.”
“My teammates had it rolling and I didn’t. I’m a point guard. I’m always going to look for my teammates no matter what,” continued Lowry. “I can score two points and have eighteen and assists and like I did, and I’m happy, because we won. That’s all that matters at the end of the day is wins and losses.”
The Rockets are deep but young team. So far this season they’re 2-4, tied with four others in the West with a 33.3% winning percentage, just one game out of the top eight.
It’s difficult to write in Houston as a playoff team but the potential is there.
Lowry believes his team will improve as the year progresses.
“We’ve just got to keep working, we’ve got to listen to our coaches, we’ve got to go out there and play every possession hard and go out there and win games,” said Kyle. “We’ve got to win games on the road; win games at home. We’ve got to be tough. We’ve got to be patient. We’ve got to know we’re going to take our lumps. We’ve got to know when to not take lumps. We’re going to have great games and we’re going to have bad games, but when you win the bad games is when you become a better team.”
With Lowry at the point, the Rockets have one key position filled. Clearly during the offseason the franchise was willing to make sweeping changes, offering Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic to the New Orleans Hornets in the failed Paul to the Lakers deal.
Had Houston been willing to include Lowry in the package to New Orleans, Paul would be a Laker today.
Given his $17.7 million in total Lowry is due over three seasons (including the current campaign), the Rockets view Kyle as the best point guard in the league per dollar.
“He’s still a young guy. This league is not really kind to young guys normally, it takes a while but he keeps on working,” said McHale. “He’s as student of the game. Kyle has a great basketball IQ, he really is a smart, smart young man on the basketball court and that helps him a great deal.”
It took some time for Lowry to get to this point, but he’s arrived.
“I’ve always been able to play the game and obviously the game always had competition, I just had to wait for my opportunity,” said Kyle. “It took me a longer time; as long as it took.”
The Sacramento Kings have announced that they are parting ways with Head Coach Paul Westphal. Keith Smart will take over tonight as the team hosts the Milwaukee Bucks.
While it’s not clear what the team will do long-term at coach, whoever they hire has to do more than just “reach” DeMarcus Cousins but find a way to guide what appears to be an aimless group of players getting beat by a Western Conference-worst 10.4 points a game.
HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram has more on this breaking story . . .
McHale Missed the Competition
As one of the league’s best all-time power forwards and the winner of multiple championships with the Boston Celtics, Rockets Coach Kevin McHale recently stepped down from the broadcast booth in TNT to rejoin the league.
Years ago he ran the Minnesota Timberwolves as general manager, eventually taking over the coaching duties. When he and the Wolves parted ways, McHale surfaced on TNT.
Still, as much as he loved his working relationship with the network, McHale missed being a part of the game itself.
“You love the competition . . . when you don’t have a dog in the fight, there’ just something that’s missing,” said McHale. “When you don’t really care who wins or loses after the game . . . you win a game, you’re on top of the world. You lose and you’re in the pits, that’s no fun and after a while you get tired of that too – you like having a dog in the fight. That’s why you’ve been competitive you’re whole life and that’s what you do it for. It’s fun trying to put a system in, trying to get the guys to buy in all the things that go into coaching, I find it really challenging, really, really challenging but fun.
Back when he on the job in Minnesota, he complained about the travel and all that went with coaching outside of the job itself.
“I still don’t like the travel. I still don’t like the lifestyle. I didn’t like it when I played,” said McHale. “I actually like practices more. As a player I wasn’t big practices, I actually like practices as a coach.”
Kevin noted that his kids got old enough, with just his son Tommy in high school (a senior).
“It just was the right time,” said McHale. “You sit there and you think I want to be really be pulling for somebody. I want to feel those feelings again, butterflies before the game and big games and fun games and all that stuff.”
There’s something special about the ‘us vs. them’ in this world,” continued the Rockets coach. “I like that. That’s what I like.”
D’Antoni is Concise
“The Lakers are good, and we’re awful,” – Mike D’Antoni after a 99-82 New York Knicks loss in LA.
Goudelock Signed to Longer Contract than Morris
The Lakers didn’t have a first-round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft but they had two second-round selections. At 41st, the team took point guard Darius Morris from the University of Michigan.
At 46th, LA chose Andrew Goudelock, a four-year player from the College of Charleston.
Goudelock was an early part of the team’s rotation and one Coach Mike Brown has found “intriguing.” Morris has yet to play, although he did look promising in his lone-preseason appearance.
Both are signed on minimum, non-guaranteed contracts but despite Morris’ selection as the higher pick, LA inked him to just a one-year deal.
Goudelock, with neither season guaranteed, was signed for two.
Both will be restricted free agents once they complete their initial contracts.
In total, the Lakers have $87.9 million in total salary but with luxury taxes, they’re spending about $105 million on payroll in full.
Sources say the team has instituted team-wide belt-tightening in expenses, although there’s some speculation that will loosen once the team’s contract with Time Warner Cable kicks in next season (at an estimated $150-200 million a year).
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