There isn’t a doubt about who is the player Kevin McHale has given the reins to this season to take the Houston Rockets into the playoffs. It’s James Harden, the untouchable, undoubted star of this team, which comes with a lot of benefits the Rockets didn’t have in previous season, but comes at a price, which part of it is costing them the best of Jeremy Lin.
McHale, and it seems that the Rockets front office is supporting him in this, made James Harden not only his star player and finisher, which is pretty obvious considering the rest of the roster, but the de facto point guard on the floor. When you combine that fact with Harden feeling that he’s finally free to shoot as much as he’d like and not having to try and steal some spotlight from two better players, it can lead to some disastrous results, like Harden going 6-24 in their loss to the Indiana Pacers, and 12-40 on their last two games, which isn’t such a rare sight this season.
While there’s no doubt Harden is one of the best scorers in the NBA, averaging 26.2 points per game, his decision making often comes down to the easy one to make – being selfish when the game is on the line. When it works, you hear McHale singing his praise non-stop, but when it doesn’t, you start to wonder that maybe sometimes, doing the less obvious thing, and giving someone like Lin more time with the ball and with the ability to make decisions instead of waiting for Harden to find him for the spot-up three pointer, is the better way to approach possessions.
Harden is one of the best players in the NBA on the fast break, averaging 6.7 transition points and 1.3 points per possession in transition offense. When he’s hot, he’s fun to watch, and he’s clearly one of the more unstoppable players in the league. But just like in the NBA finals against the Heat, it seems his decision making tends to be a bit off when given too much responsibility, while Lin’s minutes have been reduced allowing him even more time to make things happen towards his own benefit on the court. Lin hasn’t been 100% healthy over the last couple of months and the Rockets might be considering giving him some minutes of rest as the playoffs come beckoning, but spending more time with Patrick Beverley on the floor next to Harden isn’t the smartest thing in the world.
And here’s the thing about McHale – Being a hall of fame basketball player doesn’t make you a great head coach. He wasn’t a great GM with the Timberwolves, and besides picking Kevin Garnett didn’t do anything memorable. As a head coach, he still hasn’t made the postseason, and it seems he is so grateful that his front office landed him James Harden via trade, probably taking him to his first postseason, he’s willing to simply forget about trying to coach, casting aside an important and wrongly-used player like Jeremy Lin for the sake of making the easy decisions.