News And Notes
Parsons peaking while Rockets resolve to snap slump
NEW YORK, NY - The Rockets are no strangers to adversity. Training came began amidst chaos. An early four-game losing streak put the club behind the 8-ball early at 3-7. And now, once more, dark clouds have gathered overhead as the Rockets find themselves in the middle of a five-game losing streak.
These things happen over the course of an NBA season. Houston Head Coach Kevin McHale preached the merits of perseverance from day one. Now, the Rockets must lean on the same sort of resilience that helped them recover from those earlier bouts of trouble in order to right the ship once more.
Their task was not made easier with Friday morning’s news that Kyle Lowry remains in a New York City hospital due to illness after undergoing a procedure for tests on abdominal distress and a fever. He will likely miss Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Nets and is being listed as day-to-day going forward.
If Lowry is unable to go, Goran Dragic will slide into that starting spot; a position he has manned exceptionally well in limited opportunities as a starter in Houston. Last season, he recorded a triple double during a late season start, and in two such situations this season he’s averaged 15 points and nearly 10 assists per game as the Rockets’ starting point guard. Defensively, meanwhile, Dragic might be even better given his demonstrated ability to apply intense pressure and endless energy on that end of the floor – a characteristic that will surely come in handy against the Nets’ All-Star point guard Deron Williams (update: Williams has been ruled out by the Nets after injuring his right calf Friday night against Charlotte).
“Goran will pick up point guards higher,” said McHale, when comparing Dragic’s defensive style to that of Lowry’s. “He gets up in the ball a little bit (more). Kyle picked up real high a few years ago, too, when he was a back up – seems like the starter gets a little more tired and picks up a little lower … He’s going to keep putting pressure on the ball and he does a very nice job.”
And while the Rockets are preparing as if they will be without Lowry Saturday night, they may very well be welcoming back the much-needed presence of Jordan Hill. The third-year forward has missed Houston’s last nine games with a sprained right MCL, but was a full participant in Friday’s practice and will be a game-time decision Saturday night. His absence was certainly felt the last few weeks, especially on the boards where Hill has a rebound rate that ranks among the league’s 10 best at the center position.
“It felt good,” said Hill, of his first day back of full-contact practice. “It’s a little sore now but it felt real good being out there. The only problem is the brace I’ve got to wear; it’s got me feeling a little restrictive – less movement than I usually do. I’m just trying to get used to that and go from there.”
In other injury news, Courtney Lee sat out Friday’s practice with a sore right foot but is listed as probable for Saturday’s game. Greg Smith, still nursing a bruised tailbone, worked out on the side, and is still categorized as day-to-day.
While the Rockets have been struggling since the All-Star break, Chandler Parsons has actually been playing some of his best basketball of the season since play resumed. Wednesday night against Toronto he poured in 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting – an exclamation mark of sorts to cap a six-game stretch that has seen him average 10.3 points per game on 58.5 shooting since the break. He’s also been hitting nearly 65 percent of his free throws during that stretch, reaping the benefits of all the extra time he’s put in to improve his stroke and confidence from the charity stripe.
“I definitely feel more confident,” says Parsons. “I’ve been working every day with (Rockets assistant coach) J.B. Bickerstaff shooting free throws – I want to get to the line now. I feel good, my shot feels good, and I’m just trying to take good shots and take what the offense gives me and just be confident.
“I think defenses are giving me the 3 first. They don’t want me to drive and be able to create because that’s what I do best. Once I become more of a consistent shooter that will open up my whole game and make things much easier, but I definitely notice teams don’t pressure me and want me to settle for jump shots instead of going to the hoop.
“But beside that, it’s just knowing angles and stuff. When I see someone closing out and short-arm me, trying to give me the shot, I’ll try to go quick off the dribble and make different reads on how the defense is guarding me and it’s different every game. But I haven’t really done anything different; I’m playing the same, staying aggressive, making shots and getting to the foul line – and actually making some free throws.”