March 21, 2011
LeBron James(notes) was named the NBA's Player of the Week in the Eastern Conference. Makes sense, because the Heat forward averaged 29 points along with 9.5 combined assists and rebounds as the Heat worked their way to a 3-1 record.
Out West, it's a bit more of a surprise. Houston's Kyle Lowry(notes) took the honors, after leading the Rockets to a sweep through their four games, finishing the run with a triple-double against the Jazz over the weekend.
Lowry's ascension to one of the better point guards in the NBA has been a quiet one, but he's clearly fulfilling all the promise some saw in him during his injury-abbreviated rookie season in Memphis. The powerful guard got off to a slow start this season while working his way into shape, but he's averaging 20 points, eight assists and five rebounds (while making half his shots, and working up a stellar 46 percent mark from long range) during the month of March.
And though we never left the Houston Rockets for dead in the team's climb toward securing a playoff berth, we weren't far off. That's changed, though.
Houston is currently a game and a half behind Memphis for the final spot, but the team is on a tear. Rick Adelman's crew has won 11 of 14 since the All-Star break. Even better, the team's schedule (with games against the Warriors, possibly Deron Williams(notes)-less Nets, Kings, Timberwolves and Clippers) could further fuel Houston's run.
Lowry is clearly the biggest reason for the turnaround. In trading Aaron Brooks(notes) to Phoenix and handing Lowry starter's minutes, the Rockets more or less traded for a borderline All-Star as Lowry's minutes and productivity took off. Brooks remains a defensive sieve, but Lowry brings the goods on that end, helping steady a Rockets team that thinks offense-first (Houston is fourth in offensive efficiency, but 21st in defensive efficiency) at all other positions.
On the year, Lowry is averaging 13.2 points, 6.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds in just 33 minutes a game, but there's no reason to pass on assuming that his March averages will sustain. He's always had that talent, if not much of a jump shot. And now he has both, and the minutes to do something with it.