The Los Angeles Clippers fired their head coach because Chris Paul demanded it, but didn’t like the media knowing about it. So his future with the team remains in doubt, giving the Houston Rockets an opportunity to sign him, which will mean a few things: Jeremy Lin becoming a bench player once again, while Dwight Howard won’t be heading over there.
Officially, Paul is going to be very hard to convince to leave the Clippers, who showed him that they’re willing to make him happy in order to get him to sign a five-year maximum kind of deal. But the Orlando Magic bet the bank on Dwight Howard, and were forced to trade him after letting go of everyone just to make him happy. Paul might not be Dwight Howard, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll stay with the Clippers.
But what does it mean for the Rockets if he arrives? Unlike Dwight Howard, which simply meant that Houston have the option of becoming a twin-tower kind of team or become more focused on pushing the ball inside while James Harden doesn’t really have to change in how he plays except for the volume of shots he takes, putting on a dominant point guard instead of Jeremy Lin, who signaled to some the direction in which the Rockets should pursue, at least in style, in order to become a better team, will mean an entire change in their offensive identity.
Because Harden might have been able to pull off the shooting guard who keeps handling the ball and turning Lin into a de facto shooting guard last season, but bringing over a dominant point guard like Paul will completely change the scenery. Regardless of what Kevin McHale likes to play and what the GM’s office tells him from above, Paul won’t have it if he’s not the one handling the ball whenver he’s on court, and he’s not the focus of all this whole show.
Even guys who dish out 9-10 assists per game have egos, which might not surface in the form of trying to score 30 points each game, but it shows in the importance and attention they demand from their teammates and the organization. There’s no doubt that Paul is the better point guard than Lin in pretty much every aspect possible, but it also means a different kind of basketball style than what Lin offered in the few opportunities he had to lead the team up to this point.
So Lin becomes a backup point guard, in a spot Patrick Beverley also does quite well? And is paying Lin $8-9 million a season for backing up two guards who are bound to play quite a lot (Paul averaged 33.4 minutes a night last season, Harden played more than 38), not leaving a lot of time on the floor for anyone else.
Lin wants to be a starter, and frankly, he should be, and can be, for a number of teams, or at least someone who plays a substantial role in one. The arrival of Chris Paul, if it actually happens, ruins that chance for him, even though the Rockets automatically become a better team. For the salary he’s making, and the expectations he has of himself and of the organization, it might mean Lin asking for a trade and being granted one isn’t too far away from happening.