NBA teams have to release players by Tuesday in order for them to become eligible to sign with another team and participate on a playoff roster.
Houston acquired Lawson last summer from the Denver Nuggets, giving up its 2016 first-round pick and four backup players. In return, the Rockets received Lawson and a second-rounder from Denver. Lawson was supposed to take the ballhandling duties away from shooting guard and leading scorer James Harden, but instead he was benched after just 11 games and played poorly the entire season.
Lawson ranks last, 83rd, among point guards in real plus-minus at -5.95. After finishing third in the NBA in assists last season at 9.6, Lawson averaged just 3.4 this season, the lowest total since his rookie season in 2009-10. Lawson has set career lows in field goal percentage (38.7), points per game (5.8) and offensive rating per 100 possessions (98).
In the last three games, Lawson participated in just 5.5 minutes per game, and in the last 10 games, he shot 32.4 percent.
When the Rockets acquired Lawson, the biggest concern was about his off-the-court behavior. He was arrested twice last year for DWI, once in Denver and once in Los Angeles, which eventually resulted in two league-mandated suspensions this season.
To help Lawson with his recovery, the Rockets paired him with John Lucas, a former NBA player who battled drug and alcohol additions during his career and who now mentors players with similar problems.
Team officials didn't have any problems with Lawson off the court and were pleased with his interactions with Lucas and his teammates.
It was on the court where the issues arose, and Lawson never found a rhythm or gained confidence. When he was with Denver, Lawson played well as a penetrator who was able to make strong passes to his centers.
Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff encouraged Lawson to shoot more and become the main ball handler with the second unit.
Lawson's inability to take charge of the offense, either by shooting or by becoming a playmaker with his passing skills, meant Bickerstaff had no reason to give him more minutes as the second guard. The coach stuck with veteran Jason Terry as the second guard behind Patrick Beverley, particularly in the second half of games, leaving Lawson on the bench.