The Star For Whom We’ve All Been Waiting?

One year ago, the Houston Rockets found themselves in a peculiarly similar position as they do today in regard to their point guard situation. While the current team’s situation does not exactly mirror an ideal circumstance with 10 games left, a vibrant, youthful point has brought the team an actual star‘s firepower, whether that star be of the demi, semi or super variety. Last year, that little man was Aaron Brooks, the 2010-11 Most Improved Player (an award given through a straw-drawing process, I believe), a tiny sparkplug whose abhorrent defense and questionable shot selection could be masked by some pretty raw numbers (19.6 PPG) and fan-pleasing theatrics.  Brooks came through huge for a Rockets team that needed just about anything it could eek out of the slapdash roster assorted in the absence of the large fella in the 09-10 season; at this point, last year couldn’t seem further away, yet once again, all manner of Rockets follower finds themselves focused on the little general running the show from the point god position. This time, though, he might be better.

Kyle Lowry’s NBA career has mostly been spent scampering around, trying to escape the shadows of the luminaries with whom he’s shared his position. In his first run as a Memphis Grizzlies, Lowry was famously cast aside in favor of the seeming bust Mike Conley (it seems entirely fitting that for all of the bluster over who’s better that both Lowry and Conley would have breakout season concurrently while scrapping for the same playoff spot), given little attention and even fewer minutes. After being traded to the contending Rockets, Lowry finally got those alluring minutes, even if he immediately found his place on the bench behind another young player in Brooks; until the opportunity afforded to Kyle by Manu Ginobili, Lowry had never started a game while donning Rockets red, but the chunky six-year extension Lowry signed in the offseason gave hints that the tiny bulldog’s chance to go forth and set the world on fire quickly approached.

I cannot lie; I have doubted him many times before this moment. Lowry’s dribble penetration has never been the best, as his ball-handling skills do not scream “star” or even “game-changer”; his heated, ball-hawking defense can prove ineffective at times because, well, the NBA doesn’t really let point guards guard other point guards one-on-one. His stroke from the outside always looked right and always wasn’t, and I’m sure even he would admit that he had the tendency to pound the ball into submission before making decisions with precious few seconds ticking away on the shot clock (admittedly, this year, he’s also had the tendency to drain anything he puts up as the buzzer sounds). Yes, as much as I’ve always liked about Lowry, I’ve always considered him the prototypical backup point guard: one who can run the offense admirably, play strong defense and bring energy to a depleted front line. As always, the mysteries of youth eluded me.

Lowry, for all of his five years in this league, is but a wee 24 years of age (his 25th birthday will come in four days). He is entering that prime that we all write about mystically, reverently. The initial reports on said prime? Remarkable. Lowry’s March has been one for the ages, including averages of 20.4 points (on 50% from the field and 46% from three), 7.9 assists and 5.3 rebounds; tack on a couple assists, and those are Chris Paul numbers. This month of madness culminated in Sunday night’s struggle with the Jazz in which Lowry posted his first triple-double, leaving a stunned Rockets fanbase with more questions than ever. He can’t keep doing this, can he? Has he actually found his stroke, or could this be more fool’s gold? Wait, that really good little kid is already 25?

Lowry is no longer the young pup with big paws. This game, this team, is his, and it will go as he does. Through March, both have gone pretty damn well. Teams, and players, do this from time to time. Hot months come and go, leaving fans wondering what happened to that guy whose jersey they already bought. A 25-year-old point guard finally being handed the keys to a team, though, bodes well for the Rockets, as well as anything can in a league that routinely features back-to-back matchups with the likes of Paul and Deron Williams or Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo. With guys like that looming, it’s nice to have one’s own star. Let’s just hope it stays that way.

Jacob Mustafa is a regular contributor to Red94, and he cannot come up with a satisfying italicized tag to end articles.

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