Unless Kevin McHale has a change of heart at the last minute, it looks like Jeremy Lin is going to come off the bench in the early games of the 2013-2014 NBA season, which means Patrick Beverley is being preferred to play next to Dwight Howard and James Harden for the Houston Rockets in the starting lineup.
This was coming, although McHale and Daryl Morey masked it well. McHale never though of Lin as a key piece in his plans, even though he now does give him the chance to become one of the best backup players in the league, and an automatic candidate for the sixth man of the year award.
However, this will only happen if we see Lin on the floor for 30 minutes a night more or less. Last season, Beverley was preferred as the season went by in the final minutes of close games, while Lin, who started in all 82 games for the Rockets, was preferred in the less tense moments.
One can say that this is a blessing in disguise for Lin: Less minutes next to Harden, and a chance to be the team leader for the second unit and get more minutes as the sole point guard on the floor. McHale himself said more than once that it doesn’t matter who starts games, but actually who plays more minutes. So is he indicating Lin will still get 30-32 minutes a night?
Hard to say, and hard to believe, and hard to shake off the feeling that this is something of a demotion McHale has been waiting to pull off. The Rockets did look for trade avenues regarding Lin in the offseason, but both Harden and Howard preferred to play next to him. However, with the Rockets more and more likely to try early on the lineup which includes both Howard and Asik as more than just a fringe solution, they prefer having better shooters on the floor, and Beverley is a better perimeter option than Lin.
But is putting the ball in James Harden’s hands all the time the right way to go? He might be something of a point guard at heart and a creator when he wants to, but the ball needs to go inside as well. Harden is a score-first kind of player, especially when things aren’t going his way. He loves driving into the paint and go to the line, and when that doesn’t work, if no one gets the ball out of his hands, it becomes a painful-to-watch display of jacking up contested jumpers in high volumes.
Lin was supposed to be the balance between Harden and Howard in the Rockets’ offense, but it won’t be surprising to see that the people running this team have other plans. It’s too early to declare what Lin’s season will look like, and it might even benefit him to be the best player coming off the bench for Houston. However, it’s impossible to ignore that McHale has been wanting to make this move for a very long time, and it most likely doesn’t mean good things for the point guard.