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Wednesday January 18, 2012 7:05 PM

Dynamic Duo


Lowry and Martin combining to give Rockets lethal backcourt combination

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - Kyle Lowry isn’t just putting up All-Star caliber stats; he’s also part of a potent pairing with Kevin Martin that has seen them become one of the best starting backcourts in the NBA according to ESPN.com NBA Analyst David Thorpe.

“Kevin and Kyle are definitely in the conversation of being amongst the best,” says Thorpe, who also serves as the Executive Director or Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Florida where he has personally trained and worked with numerous NBA players, including Martin, over the past decade. “That backcourt together has a lot of strengths and they complement each other very well. I’m a huge Kyle Lowry fan and I definitely think Kyle is the best point guard Kevin has ever played with by a strong degree – might be the best player; Kevin’s never played with an All-Star before.”

The key to the on-court chemistry shared by the two players starts with the same characteristics found within any successful relationship. At the core of their dynamic, Lowry and Martin click because of the communication, understanding and experience they share; a certain synergy that not coincidentally started to reveal itself right around the time the Rockets were making their big second-half run last season.

“We developed that chemistry probably around midseason last year,” says Martin, “especially right after the All-Star break. Ever since then we’ve been the type where we’re always on the court talking after every play on the defensive end and the offensive end. I tell him what I expect out of him and he tells me what he expects out of me. We’re definitely on the same page.

“He understands that I like to play the game moving around. I have always patterned my game after unselfish guys like Reggie Miller, Ray Allen or Rip Hamilton. And Kyle is the perfect point guard for me to be able to do that. We have to be able to be on the same page throughout the game because we know that as we go, the team goes. We just have to get better every day at that.”

Frighteningly for Rockets’ opponents, Houston’s boffo backcourt does indeed have plenty of available room for improvement. While Lowry has posted career-high numbers across the board, Martin's transition into the team's new offense has been slower. That's not really a huge surprise; the Rockets' new system puts the ball in Lowry's hands much more than it did a year ago (hence his career-high usage rate; one which is more than 25 percent higher than the one he posted last season), prompting Martin to make some adjustments in order to maintain his uber-efficient effectiveness. There are signs, however, that he is doing precisely that. Prior to Houston’s blowout victory over the Pistons – a contest that only required 28 minutes of Martin’s time – the Rockets’ starting two-guard had posted back-to-back games which saw him score 25 points or more while earning double-digit trips to the free throw line. And while there's been some fuss over Martin's missing 3-point shot, keep this in mind: Martin is a mere six makes away from a 3-point shooting percentage that would be right at his career average (.377). So long as he keeps getting good, open looks – and in this offense, he will – it's only a matter of time before they start falling in bunches.

In the meantime, Lowry knows it’s his job as the quarterback of the club to get his backcourt mate going early in games by putting him in the best situations possible to exploit the holes in the opposition’s defense; either through placing a well-timed pass to a cutting Martin out of the Rockets’ half-court sets or penetrating in transition before kicking the ball out for a wide-open trey, the latter of which Lowry and Martin seem to be able to connect on in their sleep.

“In transition, when Kyle is thinking about getting Kevin involved, he’s got great eyes for that,” says Thorpe. “And when he wants to find Kevin, it’s hard to keep Kevin from catching the ball in transition. Kevin is a genius at finding those cracks in a transition defense and Kyle has proven that he can find Kevin at the exact moment when he’s going to be free.”

And looking even further down the line, Thorpe believes Houston’s backcourt will benefit greatly from the current coaching staff’s ever-increasing familiarity with the duo’s strengths and weaknesses; something that should allow McHale and company to fully implement everything they have in store in order to get the Rockets running at peak performance.  

“I think over time McHale will – and it may be next year by the way because there’s no time to put stuff in now – put in everything he wants to do and will have the time to practice it over and over again. He can kind of mix in the best of what this year is showing which is a Kyle Lowry-centered ball-screen action type offense with a lot of the moving off the ball stuff, pinch-post action that Kevin can take advantage of since he is one of the best in the league at moving without the ball.

“So I think the future is bright for them and I think it’s going to be even better over time than it is now.”

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