One of the worst things NBA franchises can do is put the welfare and success of one player, lets call him James Harden, over the success of the entire team that shall be named the Houston Rockets, as players like Jeremy Lin and Dwight Howard represent the direction that should be taken.
Stars are often stronger than NBA coaches on certain teams, but a personality like James Harden and an Analytics General Manager like Daryl Morey shouldn’t be so easily seduced by the temptation of doing the easy thing, which is putting the ball in James Harden’s hands, and getting wherever it takes them.
You can win with individual, less complicated, selfish basketball. Just look at the Oklahoma City Thunder, where Harden used to play, and probably got his biggest influence from. The problem? Few teams, if any, have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, making it possible for them to run an iso or one-screen offense for most of the game and still win 60 times a season, while the rest of the team settles for scarps.
James Harden is very talented, but he’s not Kevin Durant and not Russell Westbrook. His skill set makes him very hard to stop. He has incredible upper body strength for a guard, quick hands and great control over his body, balance and all. When he gets hot, it’s very hard to get him to stop. He usually takes care of that by himself.
Dwight Howard and Jeremy Lin are the less ‘sexy’ options of winning basketball. It’s funny to mention that about Howard, who is one of the biggest names in the NBA, but limited centers succeed when you play the right way, like Howard enjoyed while playing for the Orlando Magic. Howard is also happy when he isn’t left to fend on his own against three and four players, while the perimeter defense, a huge weakness James Harden is cursed with, allows easy penetration time after time.
Jeremy Lin? He represents the unselfish basketball. He is one of the best in the NBA when it comes to driving to the basket and getting something out of it. True, his wild style does cause turnovers, but Lin is bringing that number down. He needs the ball in his hands a bit more for that to work, which is one of the problems the Rockets are having recently and why it’s been so difficult picking up wins lately.
The Rockets have injury issues. Patrick Beverly is an awful offensive player, which enables Harden to do whatever he wants on the floor, but he’s also the best defending guard the Rockets have. At least for some minutes, that’s useful. Not having a big man to backup Howard (what’s going on with Omer Asik – injury or a pain in his ego/effort/will?) is taking its toll as well.
But playing bad basketball is their number one fault. The Rockets should be better than 22-13 at this stage. But Jeremy Lin is once again forced to watch James Harden do whatever he wants from the side, while Dwight Howard is frustrated that more attacks don’t go through him, and that he’s being abandoned on defense.
There are no easy fixes, but sometimes things are apparent – beyond the stats and numbers, the Houston Rockets are wasting away a talented roster in order to keep a star happy, while his head coach, usually displaying zero creativity in his game management, simply idly watches from the side, hoping that the shots drop on that night instead of actually playing the kind of basketball that’s less about chance and more about utilizing the strengths of this team. Despite positive signs here and there, the general direction is still one that ignores players like Lin, Parsons and sometimes Howard, while Harden is thriving, regardless of how bad it is for the team.