HOUSTON (CBS Houston) — If ever there was ever a feeling so much is being left unsaid it has to be this ongoing rift between Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry and head coach Kevin McHale.
Lowry surprised most a few weeks when he went public with his rocky relationship with McHale, going as far as to say he can’t see himself playing for McHale any longer.
McHale has downplayed the rift, dismissing it as a “minor beef” that took place in the heat of a game this past season. But it was apparent throughout much of last season that the Rockets first-year coach had a frosty relationship with both of his star players, Kevin Martin and Lowry.
None of the parties would admit it then but the body language and what wasn’t said left you to read between the lines that things were far from smooth inside of the team huddle. Lowry finally filled them in a little with his demand for a change a few weeks ago.
While the Rockets and McHale have since said publicly they believe the rift can be fixed and they want Lowry to remain, they have been working deals for weeks to possibly trade Lowry. In fact, Lowry could be gone by Thursday if a reported deal between the Rockets and Toronto can be reached.
But as recently as Monday, McHale was adamant there is no real problem between himself and his point guard – at least from his end.
“I’ve often said, as coach your job isn’t to get along with everybody,” McHale said. “Your job is to coach them hard. As a coach, I don’t have a problem with Kyle, he may have a problem with me but he’d better worry when I have a problem with Kyle.
“If he doesn’t like me, that doesn’t bother me much. If I have a problem with him, he sits on the bench and that probably bothers him more. “
McHale is perhaps short-sighted in that belief. Unhappy Lowry will not be an isolated situation. It will be a locker room problem this upcoming season if things aren’t fixed.
Certainly those two can work out their differences, but the real issue may not be as easy to fix. Lowry lost a lot of his stature with the team during his extended absence due to illness when Goran Dragic exploded in his place.
The timing couldn’t have been better for Dragic, who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 with teams like Portland, Toronto and Phoenix showing strong interest in signing him for big money. Of course, the Rockets want to keep Dragic, too.
The problem the Rockets have is they have two quality point guards who both want to start and are worthy of being starters in the NBA. Could they co-exist in the same backcourt?
McHale believes so, just as they did playing together at times last season.
“I think Goran and Kyle play well together,” McHale said. “I like that lineup when they played together so I don’t see any problem with that.”
But clearly there is a problem which has the Rockets exploring a possible trade involving Lowry. Moving Lowry should be fairly easy considering he is one of the better point guards in the league and he has a very cap friendly contract with two remaining on his four-year, $24 million deal that will only count $5.75 million toward the cap next season. Lowry could easily fit into a trade package that might land Orlando Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson’s expiring $8 million contract.
Dragic, meanwhile, is expected to command a contract this summer in the neighborhood of $6 to $7 million per season which is a substantial jump from the $2.1 million he made this past season. Dragic seems to prefer remaining with the Rockets if a deal can be worked out and he is guaranteed starters minutes.
Letting Lowry go before securing a deal with Dragic could be risky for the Rockets because some team could be willing to break the bank for a play-making point guard. But having Lowry and Dragic both on the roster eating up $14 million of cap space next season is not ideal for a team that is hoping to land at least one big name player either through a trade or free agency this offseason.