The Dallas Mavericks stunned the Houston Rockets 110-98, losing another game in which James Harden acted like he’s the only player on the floor. Ty Lawson might wanna call up Jeremy Lin in Charlotte and ask him how to handle being used like a forgotten second guard standing all alone in the corner.
Initially this was going to be a post about how a Dallas Mavericks team sitting Dirk Nowitzki, Wesley Matthews and still missing Chandler Parsons manhandled the Houston Rockets, who were missing Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley. But it changed through a couple of tweets that made it about a bigger subject than just the game and a specific loss.
James Harden. He shot 5-of-21 from the field. He also finished with 10 assists, but just like with Kobe Bryant, who has impressive career assists numbers for a non-point guard, it doesn’t mean he isn’t selfish. It mostly means the ball is in his hands too much, almost all of the time. He might be the team’s best player, but better decision making, especially in a very winnable game, has to come along with that responsibility. Harden, year after year, shows his talent, but also the other side of his on-court persona, which can actually hurt the team more than help it out.
Seth Partnow tweeted about how Ty Lawson is being misused or simply wasted in the Rockets offense. A point guard who isn’t a great off the ball player and wasn’t born to simply stand around in corners waiting for a pass to come his way, is being used as that exactly: A corner three with very little influence on the game. Nathan Gottlieb brought it to my attention, and pretty much dared me to write about it.
We won’t make this post too much about Jeremy Lin, we write about him here quite enough. But Lin, despite the kind of momentum and expectations he was bringing over from the Knicks when he signed in Houston, didn’t succeed under Kevin McHale and next to Harden, even during the second year, when the addition of Dwight Howard should have helped him.
Lin has improved as a player and has added things to his arsenal which were missing during those days: A much better outside shot, more upper body strength and a lot more control and poise when attacking the basket, which in the past would have led to a lot of turnovers. But Lin didn’t have a rough time in Houston because of that. He had a rough time for the exact same reason Lawson is averaging just 9.1 points and 31.9% from the field so far.
While Lawson has his own personal demons to battle with, he was definitely a steal for the Rockets. A potential game changer, but his influence could only be felt if Harden let go a little bit of the complete power he has over the offense. The power Kevin McHale and Daryl Morey have given their touchy superstar, who can be used in other ways than being some sort of ball hogging overlord on the floor. Harden might not like people to remember, but he can do pretty well as a guy operating mostly off the ball. The problem is we see so little of it in most games.
The Rockets are 4-6 so far this season. Disappointing, but not a tragedy; not the end of the world. Morey himself said he isn’t worried, as long as the basketball they’re playing is improving. But it isn’t. Missing players or not, Harden is running the show, and seems to be doing a poorer job than before at it. When you bring in someone like Lawson, you can’t expect everything to remain the same, even for someone like Harden. Being unable to make that shift might doom the Rockets’ propsects and hopes of winning an NBA title before 2016 even begun.