There was only one game in the six games the Houston Rockets managed to drag out of the Oklahoma City Thunder in which James Harden had an impressive night. One of the biggest superstars in the NBA, but a head coach that doesn’t know how to limit him and make the most of him, while their once chance of playing the kind of basketball an injured Thunder team wouldn’t be able to handle, Jeremy Lin, got injured and made things worse by trying to play instead of watching from the side.
But despite making the postseason for the first time since 2009, there is somewhat of a sour taste in Houston, directed everywhere. They didn’t show up for the first game, that’s true, but it was a series that they had in their grasp. They lost twice by three points and again by 7 in the final game, at home. The Thudner weren’t that much better, but in a battle between bad coaching and selfish stars, the Thunder had Kevin Durant while the Rockets had James Harden. The results are OKC continuing with their postseason, while the Rockets are caught between happiness of reaching the playoffs, disappointment and finger blaming at what went wrong while thinking about the free agents they might be able to sign during the summer.
Jeremy Lin might be the most talked about basketball player in the world despite not doing too much in his career to merit such attention. Some players are a magnet for opinion, both good and bad, even if they aren’t that important to their team. But Lin is important to the Rockets, even when not used in the right way, like he wasn’t for most of the season. Among short bursts of his special ability as a point guard when given the keys to the truck, he was mostly used as a shooting guard next to James Harden, which didn’t really work to the best interests of everyone.
Lin didn’t give those doubting him anything to feel sorry about in the postseason. He played in the four losses, averaging 4 points per game in 21 minutes while shooting 25% from the field. While in the first game, like the rest of the Rockets, he was simply shell-shocked, an injury kept him from really being able to force himself upon the game which is the only way for him to do something beyond the narrow limitations Kevin McHale puts him in. Maybe if he took a bit more of time to heal, the Rockets might have made more. A bad Lin is more damaging to the team when he’s on the floor than anything else.
But the Rockets didn’t lose because of Lin, they lost because of a bad head coach and a superstar that took the team to the NBA playoffs, but his style became a bit of a nuisance when not countered by something else – be it passing and spacing led by Lin (when he had the ball in his hands) or the few times the Rockets realized pushing the ball to Asik in the paint wasn’t such a bad idea.
Maybe it’s something to learn from for a very young team, but it probably is a little bit more – a precedence and sign of things to come, of where this team is headed in the next couple of years. This is Harden’s team, as long as Kevin McHale stays on the lines and allows it to be like that. In that case, the Rockets need a different player, instead of Jeremy Lin, to make better use of a placebo point guard spot. For Lin, as well, playing anywhere but for McHale seems like a better solution for the future he is heading into.