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Monday January 9, 2012 2:33 PM

News And Notes

Lowry returns to practice as Rockets work to become road warriors

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




HOUSTON - While the weather outside Toyota Center was busy wreaking havoc with road conditions all over Houston, the Rockets went back to work Monday in an attempt to better deal with their own unique ‘road’ issues that have plagued them thus far this season.

Blame a brutally tough schedule, injuries or whatever you will, but with an 0-5 mark away from home to start the 2011-12 campaign, the Rockets know they must do whatever it takes to spark a reversal of fortune in time for the team’s back-to-back that begins Tuesday in Charlotte before another meeting with the Spurs in San Antonio on Wednesday.

Houston’s defense has been the most obvious culprit for the club’s road woes, hemorrhaging point totals and shooting percentages far greater than what the Rockets have allowed inside the friendly confines of Toyota Center this season. To be sure, some of that has to do with the caliber of competition, as the Rockets’ road opponents sport a combined record of 27-16 to date and three of those teams (the Clippers, Thunder and Magic) rate in the league’s top-7 in offensive efficiency.

But there’s a big difference between simply falling short against quality, high-scoring opponents on the road and allowing those teams free passage into the paint any time they please, which is what happened far too often during last week’s road games against the Clippers and Thunder. The Rockets showed as much one night later against Oklahoma City, when they did a much better job limiting the Thunder’s players to perimeter jumpers rather than easy buckets near the rim. Yes, Houston ultimately still succumbed to defeat Saturday but Head Coach Kevin McHale knows similar strong efforts from his players will likely produce plenty of wins in the future.

“I thought in the second half against Oklahoma City we played harder. I told those guys, you dig yourselves a hole and in the NBA there’s only one way to get out: you have to dig your way out. No one gives you a shovel and says, ‘Here, let me help you.’ They stomp on your head when you’re going down and if you don’t compete they’ll stomp on your head really bad. So we have to dig our way out of that hole on the road; we can’t hang our head when things don’t go our way, we just have to keep battling.”

Helping matters for Houston will be the return of starting point guard Kyle Lowry, who was back at practice Monday after having missed the Rockets’ last two games with a bruised right foot. Lowry looked very active during the workout and was a full participant throughout, leading to optimism that he will be back in uniform and in the starting lineup for Tuesday’s game.

“I’m sore, but better,” he said. “I’m very hopeful for tomorrow. Hopefully my foot reacts well to the treatment and today’s practice and hopefully I can go out there and play.

“I feel like I let my team down by being hurt – that’s the truth. I hate not being out there and being able to play with my teammates. The way they played on Saturday night – it was just an incredible effort that they gave and it made me sick to my stomach that I couldn’t be out there to help.”

Unlike Lowry, however, it appears Courtney Lee likely won’t be rejoining his team just yet. The fourth-year guard is still suffering the effects of a linger calf sprain and while he’s improving, he was unable to practice Monday and says his return might still be a few days off.

“I’m making progress; it’s getting better daily. I was able to do a lot of things today; I just have to keep working at it. Once I get the strength in my calf muscle where I can flex it and gain my strength back then I’ll be ready to go.

“I was shooting to (be back on the court) today but that fell through. I’m going to continue to work and hopefully either shoot for Friday or the game after that.”

Lastly, Kevin Martin also missed practice Monday. Houston's shooting guard is suffering from flu-like symptoms but is traveling with the team to Charlotte. If he is not able to play Tuesday, Goran Dragic is expected to take his place in the starting lineup.

And 1s: While the sports world is still buzzing over the latest edition of “Tebowmania,” one member of the Rockets is particularly enjoying what Tim Tebow has accomplished with the NFL’s Denver Broncos this season. University of Florida product Chandler Parsons is a big admirer of his fellow Gator – this bit of photographic proof pretty much says it all. What Parsons is not, however, is surprised by Tebow’s success after having witnessed it firsthand while at Florida and using it as motivation to succeed in a similar fashion.

“He’s just the man,” said Parsons, when asked for his response to the Broncos’ latest dramatic win – this time a 29-23 playoff victory over the Steelers in overtime. “He gets it done and works extremely hard so he’s earned everything he’s got. When you work that hard and you have that undeniable will to win like he does, good things are going to happen.

“It’s very contagious: his work ethic, his attitude, his positivity; he’s like another coach out there. Especially in college, guys just corralled around him and they get going and get hyped and he gets the fans going. He brings the best out of his teammates and you can’t ask much more than that from a teammate.

“That’s what I try to do every game. In the NBA, a lot of people have unbelievable talent; that can only get you so far. Obviously I have the talent to get to this level, but there’s much more that goes into it with how hard you work and not taking one play off because one play can cost you the game and I never want to do that. I just want to be contagious and keep everyone going, get the crowd hyped and make sure I’m making the tough, physical plays that not a lot of people see or show up in the stat book.”

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