Maybe Kevin McHale knew what he was talking about – it doesn’t matter who starts, but who plays the most minutes. Jeremy Lin had an encouraging start to the season in his new role as the sixth man for the Houston Rockets, although most of the headlines were grabbed by Dwight Howard, having a great start to the next chapter in his career, hopefully ending better than the last two.
The Houston Rockets didn’t have too much trouble in a 96-83 win over the Charlotte Bobcats. Dwight Howard scored 17 points, coming with his usual problems from the line. The Rockets started Omer Asik next to him, as the two combined for 40 rebounds, but couldn’t stop the Bobcats from scoring 40 points in the paint. They did, however, limit Al Jefferson, making his own debut for the Charlotte Bobcats, to only 13 points on 6-of-19 from the field.
Howard made a little bit of history with his 26 rebounds, the most by an NBA player on a season opener since the ABA merger, and the fourth most all-time, behind Charles Barkely and two Wilt Chamberlain performances when it comes to most rebounds for a player on his first game with a new team. He is now only the 4th player in the last 50 seasons with at least 17 points and 26 rebounds in a season opener and the first since Chamberlain 43 years ago.
Howard looked fired up. He scored 6 points through post up plays, going there 10 times during the game, compared to only 7.9 post up plays per game during his forgettable Laker year. He finished off a couple of alley-oop plays to the enjoyment of the crowd, and genuinely looked happy for the first time in quite a while with the team he’s playing for.
It wasn’t surprising to see Howard energized and alive. The bigger question was how the change at point guard was going to affect the team. Patrick Beverley started, but only played for 10 minutes. He didn’t stop James Harden from doing whatever he wanted, finishing with 21 points but also shooting 1-of-6 from beyond the arc.Things looked a lot more civilized and orderly when Lin played, scoring 16 points on 5-of-7 from the field including 2-of-2 from beyond the arc, but Harden remained the de facto point guard when the two played.
The Rockets actually enjoyed their biggest run when Aaron Brooks and Francisco Garcia played together. It had nothing to do with Brooks, not scoring a single point or taking a single shot. Garcia hit five three pointers to finish with 18 points, as the Rockets got 39 points from their bench, even while Greg Smith, Terrence Jones, Donatas Montiejunas and Ronnie Brewer didn’t even play.
I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself. I just wanted to go out there and play and have fun and get back to being who I am as a player. I think when you focus too much on that and what everybody else is saying that’s when you don’t play like you want to play.