If the only two choices Jeremy Lin has in the upcoming free agency involve the Houston Rockets and someone else, he needs to go as far from Houston as possible. The Mike D’Antoni hiring and factor isn’t enough. James Harden is still king of the ring there, and until Daryl Morey is fired, his influence might be diminished, but never gone.
Lin isn’t going to have two options. More like a dozen, or close to that. The Charlotte Hornets alone are a strong possibility (although there are better ones), but the best one, considering inside competition and the coach he’s going to play for, is probably the Brooklyn Nets. Kenny Atkinson might not be as experienced and proven as D’Antoni, but he worked under him, was an assistant with the New York Knicks during the 2012 Lin breakout, and is thought of as a bright basketball mind.
No matter how you turn this, the Rockets still have Harden. D’Antoni might be able to offer some interesting changes to the Rockets basketball style, but everything hinges on Harden being accepting of these changes, and above all else, willing to put his ego aside, and start playing like the shooting guard he was meant to be. The Rockets have made other mistakes besides pushing Lin out of town back in 2014, but the whole concept of pairing Harden up with point guards willing to simply play 3 & D or something of the sort isn’t going to work.
Chris Baldwin always shoots fire and truth to his readers about the Rockets situation. He’s a Lin supporter, and is very happy about D’Antoni becoming the head coach in Houston. He wrote an interesting article about what could be now that D’Antoni has joined the staff, but his glance into the crystal ball relies on Harden changing. He puts Les Alexander’s stripping Morey of power at the center of a reality in which Harden becomes the league’s best scorer and Lin leads the NBA in assists. Yes, the team’s identity being formed by the head coach instead of the general manager might be a good change, but the article slightly ignores who Harden is.
Maybe I’m pessimistic, but we’ve seen everything that has happened in Houston over the last four years, and we can add stuff up to figure out where it’s pointing to. The Rockets might be very successful with D’Antoni as the head coach, but it’s hard for me to believe that it’s going to be easy making Harden share the rock and even become a secondary ball handler in the new look offense. And Lin can’t be waiting for Harden to notice him for another year, two or more.
The offseason will probably begin with everyone trying to get a piece of Kevin Durant before teams (almost everyone) move on to other signings. Lin will probably wait, like the others, for Durant to make up his mind, and then try to land a deal as soon as possible. Although there’s plenty of cap space for teams this season, waiting for too long is never a good idea. As good as Lin can be, the number of openings for him to be a starting, dominant point guard are limited, and he can’t let the right opportunity slip away.