An equal partnership between two players in an effort to lead a team can’t work. Someone has to be the number one guy, some has to take a step back. With each game and win, it’s clear that James Harden is and should be the man the Houston Rockets follow, while Jeremy Lin takes somewhat of a secondary role.
After beating the Philadelphia 76ers 125-103, improving to 13-12 this season, Doug Collins had an interesting comparison to offer regarding Harden – To me, when he’s coming down the floor, he’s very similar to LeBron James. He combines size, strength and shooting, and he loves to make contact.
During his college days, Harden was often criticized for being too laid back, too nonchalant, something he himself agrees held him back. After spending time on the Thunder’s bench, it seems that as a starter, Harden is anything but laid back. He’s aggressive, commanding, demanding. He finished with 33 points, getting to the line 18 times, making 17 of his shots. It’s his seventh straight game with more than 20 points and his 7th of the season with at least 30, trailing only Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James this season. Just to compare, he had a total of 3 30+ games when he played for the Thunder.
Averaging 25.4 points per game, there’s no more question if Harden can be a star with some added time on the floor, or whether Kevin McHale is going to change the on-court balance between him and Jeremy Lin. Harden is the guy with the ball first and foremost. He’s the one who makes the decision, at least early in the game and often late in the game. Lin is the one who is forced to adjust, despite being the on-paper point guard.
This is an up and down season for the former Harvard point guard, who scored 38 points without Harden 10 days ago, then followed with three consecutive games of 10 points or less. Now? He scored 22 points in the win over the New York Knicks, which can be attributed to his burning desire against his former team, and followed that with an 18 point effort against the 76ers. Lin? Adjusting to the off-the-ball (mostly) guard? He’s 17-27 from the field over these two wins (but only 2-9 from beyond the arc). It might suggest he’s feeling a bit more comfortable, but two games are nothing to base theories upon, not solid ones at least.
It’s interesting to see how Lin and Harden address the rest of the team, how they control the game. Harden didn’t wait too long to become the face of the franchise, to become the leader. He speaks to the players during the timeouts and short breaks. He just doesn’t lead by example with his basketball and ability, but he’s doing everything he can to show that he can take over a team. Jeremy Lin isn’t a shy player as well. He had no problem playing with Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire last season, but it always feels like he has more to prove.
He’s a legitimate starting point guard in this league, despite the bad night once a week. Is he something more? He’s not the kind of player James Harden is right now, but if he learns and adjusts to his new role next to Harden, the Rockets have something very special developing at the Toyota Center, which might be here to stay for more than a brief, memorable season.