The debut of Dwight Howard in Houston Rockets uniform wasn’t just about the center showing he’s ready to take this team very far, but also on his impact on James Harden who was used to doing anything he wanted on the floor, and what it means for Jeremy Lin in terms of actually playing like a point guard for once.
The verdict? It’s still early to announce anything, but the 116-115 loss against the New Orleans Pelicans did give a hint of how good the starting lineup may be, as all five starters, playing from 19 minutes (Lin) to 27/28 minutes (Harden, Howard, Parsons), is going to be one of the best in the NBA, everyone finishing with at least a +8, with Lin’s time on the court being the most productive.
Lin might not get most of the attention, but he might be the most important piece of this puzzle, being the only real point guard on this team that can actually spread the ball and isn’t another short shooting guard like Patrick Beverley, or someone who just isn’t good enough to make a big contribution like Aaron Brooks.
Lin finished with 11 points and four assists, getting to play in his natural position and have the ball in his hands more than he did last season, although one preseason game isn’t something that is easy to draw conclusions from. It was easy to see Howard feel very comfortable in his new workplace, socring 19 points and adding 9 rebounds, not having too much trouble against Anthony Davis and Greg Siestema.
James Harden finished with 21 points, showing once again how hard it is to stop him when he drives to the basket, getting to the line 7 times. The Rockets might lead the league in free throw attempts this season, and they can only hope Howard shoots a decent 7-of-11 from the line for most of the season.
Most of the attention in the past few days has gone to the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs Dwight Howard feud, which is mostly about another former center blasting Howard, which simply seems to be some ongoing attempt from the Los Angeles Lakers to discredit their former center. It didn’t seem to affect him one bit on the floor, and a focused Howard, without the drama playing in Los Angeles next to someone like Kobe Bryant creates, not to mention the constant opinion sharing from Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem who don’t like watching others tread in their shoes, is a much better player.
The Rockets won’t live and die on Howard’s ability, but on Harden and Jeremy Lin getting used to their new roles, and not finding it too difficult to manage in them. There’s also Chandler Parsons, Omri Casppi and anyone else who is going to play a major role in spreading the floor. Both did a good job, but Casppi, who might be entering the season that is his final chance to remain in the league, was red hot during his time on the floor, finishing with 9-of-10 from the field and hitting two three pointers en route to a 20-point performance.