There’s comes a point when James Harden will need to have a long hard look in the mirror and decide what he wants to be when he grows up. A sorta superstar who has plenty of points and big numbers but no real achievements, or someone who is known for being a team player, even if it means giving the ball up from time to time while players who can do just as well with it, like Jeremy Lin, get to be part of the process.
According to 82games.com the best 5-man unit the Houston Rockets have doesn’t include Jeremy Lin, but Patrick Beverley playing in the backcourt. One can understand in one way or another why the Rockets would make Lin their sixth man: Beverley is more of a stopper and most teams like having their best defensive guard starting in games to make up for players like Harden slacking on defense. Lin is a great backup to have (Starter quality), and can give the second unit a player who can create for himself and others.
But this season has shown us time and time again that the Rockets are at their best when Lin is playing in the final minutes of the game instead of being ignored on the bench. That, at least, is something that the Rockets’ head coaches have figured out. Next is giving Lin more minutes than Beverley, who might be the best defender out of the three guards, but his offensive inconsistency and inability to play like a point guard hurts the Rockets in more than one way.
In his head, James Harden thinks he’s Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook. Playing next to the two players for a few years made it believable to him, and made him ask for the big contract. The Rockets, starving for a superstar after both Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady were gone, jumped on the opportunity, and were happy to see Harden show he can put up big numbers as well, just like his former teammates, while Houston made the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
But it seems that McHale and Morey somewhat forgot about Omer Asik, Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin being a big reason for the Rockets making it into the postseason. Adding Dwight Howard was another move to strengthen the belief in “superstar basketball” but what’s been made quite clear through the first two thirds of the season is that it might be more important to give the right sort of setting to the “role” players than the two highest paid ones.
Harden can be his own worst enemy – one great game, when he takes over a fourth quarter with tough shots and being clutch from the line leads to two or three more attempts like that in similar scenarios that don’t go so well. Quality wing defenders can handle Harden when he’s in his stubborn mode and then, having Patrick Beverley next to him wont’ save him.
Lin is a real point guard, unlike Harden. His 3-point shot isn’t perfect, but he makes up for it with his ability to get points while driving in the lane and his vision. He doesn’t always get the assist, but his presence sets up the atmosphere for ball movement that simply doesn’t exist for the Rockets when Harden is running the show.
As the season enters its crucial Febraury-to-April stretch, the Rockets have a shot at finishing in the top 3 of the West. They just need to decide if they want to be a team with a player who thinks he is a superstar with a bunch of servants around him, or an actual team, with the right players filling the right roles, which will also enable Harden to shine without ruining it for everyone else.