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Tuesday September 29, 2009 5:03 PM

Houston's One-Two Punch

Rockets eye Brooks-Lowry combo in the backcourt

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com Staff Writer

Houston - “We have to go best player and not be dogmatic about traditional position designations. Only $35MM on the floor to start year.”

- Rockets GM Daryl Morey via Twitter, September 18

That quote, perhaps more than any other, allows fans invaluable insight into the mindset possessed by the Houston Rockets’ staff as the team kicks off its training camp for the 2009-10 season. With go-to guys Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady on the shelf to begin the year, the coming campaign promises to be a grand basketball experiment of sorts, with plenty of positional shape-shifting sure to take place in the days and weeks to come.

But if any team is prepared to handle such a non-traditional approach to filling out the lineup card, surely the Rockets would be that club. After all, we’re talking about the same team which trotted out a 6-6 center (Chuck Hayes) against the largest frontline in the NBA (the Lakers’ trio of Andre Bynum, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol) for four games in May and still managed to come away with a 2-2 split and plenty of well-earned respect.

That sort of creative thinking borne of necessity was not merely limited to the painted area. Head Coach Rick Adelman also dabbled with a diminutive but lightning-quick backcourt pairing featuring fellow 6-footers Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry. The results were largely positive during the regular season, as the Rockets outscored opponents 161-148 (+8.8/48 minutes) during 71 minutes of play with that particular duo on the floor. And while that’s clearly not a combination Houston can employ all the time, the Brooks-Lowry pairing does speak to the Rockets’ willingness to put its most effective players on the court – regardless of whether or not they fit into the preconceived notions of what a traditional NBA lineup should look like.

“We’ve got two attacking people who can handle the ball and make plays,” says Adelman, while describing the benefits of having Brooks and Lowry on the floor together. “As long as Kyle can defend the two-guards, I think it’s a real tough situation for the other team to try to guard those two guys. It comes down defensively to how you are, so it just depends on the match-ups.”

As for the two players themselves, both Brooks and Lowry spent their summers working hard, knowing full well how much their team needs them to elevate their respective games. Lowry, especially, looks noticeably leaner without having sacrificed any of the strength which makes him such a foul-drawing dynamo when attacking the basket. He recognizes that Brooks has a leg up on the starter’s role but the Villanova product is conceding nothing at this point.

“I basically just put my time in; did extra work in the gym putting up shots and doing things to make myself better,” says Lowry. “I prepared myself for the long haul to make myself a high-powered player for our team.

“Me and Aaron are going to go out there and battle and Coach is going to make the decision on who’s best to be the starter. I think we both want that job and whatever happens, happens. We’ve both got to still go out there and help the team win.”

And it’s that final point which brings the conversation back to the prospect of seeing Brooks and Lowry on the floor at the same time. Regardless of who starts, both players will see plenty of on-court action, some of which will surely be simultaneous. The pairing is simply too tempting to dismiss; especially given the Rockets’ stated intention to push the pace and the fact that the two lightning bugs complement each other so well.

“Aaron’s a scorer and I’m a guy that does the intangible things,” explains Lowry. “So he can come off the ball and spot up, while I push the ball down the floor and make plays. We just play off each other very, very well.

“I think we make a good combination. And having a guy like Trevor (Ariza) running the wing with us - that’s a high-flying group right there.”

Their teammates see the duo’s potential as well. “I’ll tell you what,” begins Shane Battier. “When those guys play together, that’s a tough combo. They’re not the biggest but that’s a quick, tough match-up problem for a lot of teams.”

And, ultimately, that’s what Morey’s aforementioned tweet was all about: Playing the match-ups, finding creative solutions and utilizing this club’s versatility in such a way that the tables might be turned, transforming apparent weaknesses into strengths. It’s all part of the grand experiment; one in which Rocket science becomes its own unique form of alchemy attempting to turn two tiny point guards into a golden one-two punch.

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