Rockets' Ty Lawson remains on the bench

The big offseason move by the Houston Rockets was trading four backups for Ty Lawson.

Now Lawson is a backup.

The Rockets have benched the starting point guard the past three games and it will extend to a fourth with interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff saying veteran Jason Terry will remain the starter for Wednesday’s game against Memphis.

“We like the leadership that 'Jet' brings with that first group,” Bickerstaff said after Tuesday’s practice. “Then we’ll bring those other guys in off the bench.”

This wasn’t what the Rockets expected when the decision was made to acquire Lawson.

With a need to take the ball-handling duties off James Harden, GM Daryl Morey elected to get Lawson, who controls the ball with the ability to not only create shots for himself, but others.

It just hasn’t worked out.

Harden struggled to start the season, and after three games then-coach Kevin McHale wanted him to take more control of the ball-handling duties. It was a spark to Harden, who averaged 38 points per game while earning Western Conference Player of the Week honors during a four-game win streak. And while Harden has continued his strong play -- he’s currently third in the league in scoring average -- Lawson has struggled.

He’s at career lows in shooting percentage (31.6) and points per game (4.9). Lawson has become hesitant with his outside shot and continues to struggle in catch-and-shoot opportunities.

The Rockets believed this wouldn’t be a problem for him, but it is.

Lawson is even surprised with what he’s seen this season.

“It’s definitely a different guy when you see it on tape,” he said. “Hopefully this move, this transition will get me back to my old self.”

Lawson’s old self is as a playmaker, where in 2012 he had a career-high 19.4 Player Efficiency Rating. Last season he finished third in the league in assists per game with 9.6, a career high.

This Lawson looks lost, almost as if he’s been playing in a fog.

It’s shocked him.

“It has a little bit,” he said. “You have to look at yourself, sometimes. I had to go back and look at my 2012 highlights -- did I really do this or is it a dream? I had to go back and see. It’s a little bit of an adjustment period, but I’m getting through it.”

Bringing Lawson off the bench allows Harden (89.4 touches per game) to maintain the main ball-handling responsibilities with Terry in the backcourt. When Lawson does enter the game, he can take over with a combination of different sets.

Lawson can play with Terry or Patrick Beverley in the backcourt and relieve Harden of ball-handling duties just before he gets substituted out of games.

“The best thing about him is he’s here to win,” Bickerstaff said. “So, it was an easy sacrifice for him to make. When I talked to him I told him it was not his fault. It’s not his fault we’re in this situation. He’s not the scapegoat -- we believe in him. He will continue to get his opportunities and then he’s got to take advantage of those opportunities. We know in the long run we’re going to make it where we want to go -- he’s going to be a big part of that. So, we got to get him playing to his potential, like all the guys.”