The Houston Rockets, regardless of whether they start Jeremy Lin or use his as a Sixth Man, are a team that aren’t favorites to win an NBA championship. But as it becomes clearer that they aren’t planning on trading the aforementioned point guards, they’ve come a step closer to making this season more successful than the previous one.
Lin and his $8.3 million contract (which goes through next season as well) are hard to move, but it’s not quite sure how serious the Rockets were about trading him anyway. They let the idea be known to teams, but no aggressive push was made. In the current NBA climate, paying so much for a guy you’re not sure about using him as a starting point guard doesn’t sound right.
But Lin is starting point guard material for a lot of NBA teams – the Houston Rockets included. As good as Patrick Beverley is on the defensive side, the Rockets are simply a better team with Lin on the floor than without him, especially offensively and their ability to change things up – play fast or dump the ball to Dwight Howard, with ball movement and spacing (even though Lin isn’t the greatest of shooters) better with him as well.
What are the Rockets missing from being a “true” NBA title contender? Maybe that stretch four they’ve been actively pursuing? Someone like Ryan Anderson, or similar? Terrence Jones isn’t exactly fitting the mold, although he’s been doing a great job in his second NBA season, averaging 11.7 points and 7.3 rebounds. A backup big man? Omer Asik is starting to play again and if he’ll stay with the team (probably will) and stop sulking about losing his starting place, no team in the NBA has a center duo quite like this, with Dwight Howard finally being able to get some more rest.
James Harden is the star of this team. He’s the best offensive player and like it or not, he’s going to be the guy who gets the most time with the ball, even though it might not necessarily be the best thing for the Rockets. He has nights when he can score at will, but those don’t happen that often – that kind of thinking is usually something that works against the team, with Harden putting on disastrous numbers, having a crushing effect on the rest of the players and the results. The last couple of weeks before the All-Star break, with the Rockets winning 7 in a row have been a great example of mostly moving in the right direction.
Lin has been a key part in all of his improvement – from playing without James Harden to making the most of every minute he spends on the court, as long as the ball goes through him. It doesn’t have to be about numbers – it’s about how the team plays through him and is affected by his style, unselfishness, leadership and on court intelligence.
If the coaches realize (we’ve been waiting for almost two seasons) that making Lin the number one decision maker on the floor (as opposed to the number one scorer like some people seem to think) is the best thing that can happen for the Rockets. Making everyone, especially Harden, do a little better on defense as well isn’t too much to ask. The Rockets have the talent to make a run for it, now and in the future. But it takes drifting away from the “Harden and four other guys” mentality in order for this season to be a successful one and who knows, maybe even a historic one.