Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 3/12/12
HOUSTON In the midst of a brutal stretch of defeats that might have undermined their postseason aspirations even with a fully functional roster, the Rockets discovered on Sunday that starting point guard Kyle Lowry will be sidelined for two to four weeks with a bacterial infection. Lowry leads the Rockets in assists (7.2 per game) and ranks second in scoring (15.9 points per game) and third in rebounding (5.3 per game). He has missed the past two games of the Rockets current five-game road trip, including Sunday nights 118-107 loss in Cleveland to the Cavaliers. Lowry was hospitalized when the team arrived in New York in advance of Saturdays victory over the Nets, and he is scheduled to return to Houston on Tuesday as the Rockets (22-20) cap their road trip at the Western Conference-leading Thunder (32-9) in Oklahoma City. The Rockets have dropped six of seven games and have plummeted to eighth place in the West. They sit in a precarious position, one game ahead of the Timberwolves, who recently lost rookie point guard Ricky Rubio for the season with a torn ACL, and one game in the loss column up on the Trail Blazers, whose roster began the season ravaged by injuries. If Lowry were to miss four full weeks, he would return in time for the final 10 games beginning with a crucial showdown against the Trail Blazers in Portland on April 9. That game would be the finale of a four-game road trip through Chicago, Los Angeles (against the Lakers) and Sacramento. The 14-game stretch starting against the Thunder and concluding against the Kinds also includes road games against the Clippers, Suns and Mavericks, all Western Conference playoff hopefuls. Losing Lowry within a week of the trading deadline qualifies as poor timing. The Rockets have been in pursuit of a "star" since the lockout ended and NBA commissioner David Stern nixed their deal to land Lakers forwardcenter Pau Gasol. General manager Daryl Morey has worked feverishly to elevate the Rockets above mediocrity they are 107-99 since the start of the 2009-10 season and have finished ninth in the West two consecutive seasons by acquiring assets that he could in turn flip to land a singular talent capable of aiding that cause. Playing without Lowry for an extended stretch lessens the Rockets postseason chances, further complicating their trade decisions. In his second full season as a starter, Lowry has blossomed into a fringe All-Star. While the Rockets are desperate for interior scoring, rebounding and defense, they have been hesitant to include Lowry in any projected deal. He is ascendant, entering his prime (Lowry will turn 26 on March 25) and a relative bargain, with the Rockets owing Lowry just 11.96 million between 2012-14. His toughness and productivity make him an ideal player to build around, and the Rockets appear willing to do just that. On a roster full of assets, Lowry is untouchable. While Lowry completes his full course of antibiotic treatments, the Rockets will attempt to hold on with Goran Dragic and Jonny Flynn. Against the Nets and Cavaliers Dragic averaged 21.5 points (on 60 percent shooting) and eight assists, and when Lowry missed back-to-back games against the Thunder in early January with a bruised foot, Dragic averaged 15 points and 9.5 assists. Flynn, however, last played on Jan. 28 before serving as the backup to Dragic against the Nets. Without Lowry the Rockets will have to tread water unless Morey can swing a deal that might not elevate the team above its middling status. The Rockets have gone from a quandary to a full-blown conundrum. Follow me on Twitter at moisekapenda
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