HOUSTON - As the owners of a roster that has undergone more turnover and transition than any other team in the NBA over the course of the calendar year, the Rockets came into this season as veritable locks to be league leaders in ‘reunion’ games. You know the type: Those contests where Team X faces Player Y, now wearing a different jersey, for the first time since his departure. Houston’s last two games have fit that description with Omer Asik going up against his former teammates from Chicago on Wednesday while Friday featured Jeremy Lin and Toney Douglas squaring off against the New York Knicks (not to mention Marcus Camby’s quiet return to Houston).
Appropriately enough, the Rockets will wrap up their three-game homestand with one more such contest when Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors invade Toyota Center Tuesday night. Little has gone the Raptors’ way through the regular season’s opening month, with the club having dropped four straight games, the last three of which by a combined seven points.
But minimal, if any, blame for Toronto’s 3-11 start can be placed at the feet of Lowry (save for the five games he missed due to a bum ankle). When healthy, the Philly-native has picked right up where he left off after enjoying a career year last season in Houston (a campaign, most will recall, that was also somewhat marred due to health issues), ranking among the top-10 in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating while averaging around 18 points, six rebounds and six assists per game and hitting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc.
It is that last point that perhaps speaks most to the work ethic that lies at the heart of Lowry’s success and the tenacity to which his former teammates in Houston refer most when his name is mentioned. Lowry did not enter the NBA as a knockdown shooter; far from it in fact. Indeed, for three straight seasons he hit fewer than 28 percent of his 3-point attempts. To rectify that deficiency in his game, he worked tirelessly and today the fruits of his labor are there for all to see.
Those dividends, however, did not arrive overnight. Entire seasons went by while he labored beneath the label of being a non-threat from distance. And the importance of that lesson has certainly not been lost on Houston’s current point guard who, like Lowry, has earned a reputation as a smart, hard-working player who can rebound and draw fouls very well for his position, but one who can also be left alone whenever the ball finds him behind the arc.
How appropriate, then, that on the day before Jeremy Lin’s and Kyle Lowry’s new teams are due to meet, the former was the last player to leave the floor after practice, perspiring profusely while launching one 3-pointer after another a good 30 minutes after Houston’s workout had ended.
“He can shoot the heck out of the ball,” said Lin, remarking upon the incredible transformation Lowry has undergone as a shooter since he entered the league. “I’ve seen as a shooter what I came in as to where I am now and where I want to go to, so definitely he’s is a great example of how hard work can really help you.”
That hard work is essential to ultimately enjoying sustained success is not a newsflash, of course. But Lowry’s career arc represents the significance of something else that’s just as fundamental and important: Good things come to those who wait. Patience paid off for Lowry in his mission to become a better shooter. And Lin’s similarly single-minded dedication to his craft is giving the Rockets reason to believe that, over time, they will reap the rewards of his hard work as well.
And-1s: After missing the Rockets’ past five games, Carlos Delfino (groin) was a partial participant in Monday’s practice. And while he says he’s getting closer to a return, he also indicated he’d prefer to make it all the way through an entire practice session before rejoining his teammates in game action. Acting head coach Kelvin Sampson labeled Delfino’s chances of playing against Toronto as “50-50.”
Terrence Jones and Toney Douglas missed Monday’s practice due to flu-like symptoms. Their status for Tuesday’s contest will be determined closer to game time.