Houston Rockets – James Harden Returns, Jeremy Lin Retreats

The natural order of things with the Houston Rockets is restored. James Harden is back from his ankle injury, taking over the scoring and the ball handling assignments. Jeremy Lin? He needs to live with what his back court partner leaves for him, struggling to fill a role he isn’t made to play in.

James Harden’s return after missing one game (a loss to San Antonio) might have been a bad sign for the individual stats of Jeremy Lin, but was a very good sign for the Houston Rockets, picking up their 10th win of the season and their first since Kevin McHale returned from his absence due to the death of his daughter.

Harden finished with 31 points (10-20 from the field), on a night in which he didn’t really look to the sides, finishing with only 2 assists. He just got the ball and looked for a shot. It was his second 30+ game in four days, and sixth of the season, averaging 25 points and 5.4 assists per game.

Jeremy Lin returned to the usual routine of getting to play point guard only some of time, while having to spend most of his time on the court looking for off the ball opportunities. His motion and ability without the ball greatly declines, as both his jump shot and his movement aren’t very consistent. He’s simply not a shooting guard in the full sense of the word, and needs the ball in his hands. Harden is the more talented player, but some expected that the return of McHale might mean going with Lin.

In this game, however, Harden seemed to be the only hot hand, leading the Rockets to a 99-93 win over the Washington Wizards. He scored 17 first-quarter points, going 6 of 7 from the field and hitting all four of his free throws. Jeremy Lin was limited to only 10 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists, attempting only 8 shots. On the surface, he doesn’t seem to have a problem with sharing the role of main ball handler, and the spot under the bright lights.

Harden came out on fire, and we rode his scoring for a while. It’s not just me and him — there’s five of us out there. We’re just trying to figure it all out and find a happy medium where we kind of maximize everybody.

Chandler Parsons who had a rough time getting it going in the early stages of the game managed to finish with 18 points, adding 8 rebounds to the tally. Patrick Patterson scored 13 and Toney Douglas added 12 from the bench. While the Harden-Lin issue could implode because of egos, it looks like there is hierarchy in this team that makes things work.

Everybody knows Harden is the go to guy in the beginning and the end of attacks, while the others move around to help him find a way to score or feed others. Jeremy Lin can also do that, but he takes a secondary role when it comes to touching the ball. He doesn’t strike most to be the jealous type, but it has to be frustrating knowing that seeing a bit more of the ball can do wonders for his own personal game.

For McHale, who will have to push through his personal tragedy to get this team back on a consistent winning track again, it’ll be about maximizing the potential of this explosive team (offensively), and finding the right balance between Harden and Lin, that doesn’t benefit both of them or only one of them individually, but means the most wins at the end of the season for the Houston Rockets, hopefully with a playoff spot as well.

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