Sometimes, when a talented player like James Harden goes off on an unstoppable shooting spree, it really doesn’t matter that the backcourt relationship and balances is often all wrong for the Houston Rockets, putting too few of the possession time in the hands of Jeremy Lin. However, it takes a smart player to know where the flow of the game is going, and Lin doesn’t get enough credit for being a very intelligent basketball player.
Forget about all the Harvard and Ivy-league cliche. To know Lin is a smart player you need to watch him play, in the opportunities he has to actually lead the team instead of act like a shooting guard and hope James Harden actually looks his way to give him a pass for an open three. This season has been about improving as a player and learning something he never thought he would – how to become a spot up shooter, which isn’t his strongest suit, but he’s still doing it better than he did earlier in the season.
With Kevin McHale running the show, the tendency to go with the hot hand will always overcome the one to try and play a more fluid, even type of offensive basketball, which means more Lin on the floor and more possessions led by him. But when James Harden scores 21 points in the first half alone, it really doesn’t matter who is leading the attack. When he faces a weak defense like the one the Sacramento Kings have, it doesn’t matter that his selfish brand of basketball won’t get the Rockets very far.
Harden finished with 29 points on the day, not really having to work too hard, like his entire team, after the first half was over. The Rockets won 121-100, adding nine assists because he didn’t feel any need to force his scoring and presence on the game. Harden is a very good passer, he simply forgets about that aspect of his game when his shooting doesn’t go too well. When he plays like that, the entire Rockets look like a much better, evened out and cohesive unit.
Lin finished with 15 points and only 2 assists, not getting too many opportunities to lead the attack. With Harden playing that well, on a specific night, there really isn’t a chance you’ll see the ball getting out of his hands when it comes to point guarding, which is a shame. But it does help players like Chandler Parsons (13 points), Greg Smith (11 points) and Carlos Delfino (14 points), who thrive on those penetration and kick outs Harden is known for.
Once again, maybe the Rockets will reach sixth. It really doesn’t matter. As long as Harden is the guy who calls all the shots on the floor, their ceiling for success is limited. The smarter ball handler should get more possessions, even if he’s the less talented player. Unless that attitude is quickly embedded, the Rockets don’t have a chance of making it past the first round.