After missing six games, Jeremy Lin is going to be back in action for the Houston Rockets in a very tough away game against the Portland Trail Blazers. What it means for him, James Harden, Patrick Beverley and generally the Houston Rockets remains to be seen, especially as the head coach, Kevin McHale, is currently away from the team after the passing of his mother, a year after the death of his daughter.
Tragic and sad times for McHale, which leaves Kelvin Sampson in charge. Right now there’s no schedule or date determining when McHale is going to be back, although it’s hard to believe that Sampson will do anything too radical with rotations and players that goes against anything McHale and Morey believe in.
Where does that leave Lin? The Rockets went 5-2 including the game he was injured in, picking up a big win over the Spurs on the road but also losing to the Jazz and the Suns, two games they shouldn’t be dropping, especially at home (like their loss to the Suns). Missing Chandler Parsons who came back for the last couple of games (beating Orlando and Golden State) has really helped as well.
Parsons is still struggling with his back spasms, but is likely to play, even in a reduced role. Not having Parsons means the Rockets needs someone to set things straight, like Jeremy Lin. James Harden has had good games during this 7 game stretch, but the method remains the same for him. Long possessions, looking once, twice and thrice for a shot of his own before trying to find open players as the Rockets continue to struggle with spacing and off the ball movement, and plenty of bad shots.
When the fast break is going well, it’s OK. Harden sees the floor very well, and when he wants to he actually displays some impressive vision and passing skills, helping Dwight Howard average 21 points over the last couple of games. But he and Patrick Beverley aren’t the keenest players in the world when it comes to pushing the Rockets forward on every possession, which can cause complications when Harden’s shot isn’t dropping.
That’s is where Lin should come in, even if he’ll start off the bench. As long as he gets 30 minutes with the right lineups (most of the time at least), including next to Harden and taking the ball away from him for meaningful minutes, we’ll see a more balanced, quicker and more importantly smarter Rockets team, along with the addition of Parsons, hopefully quite healthy. Against the Blazers, there’s going to be more than just how the offense looks to worry about.
Defense is a contagious thing, and if Harden gives it his all, the rest of the Rockets follow. Against the 3-point crazy Blazers, this means a lot of hustle around the perimeter, and great timing from Dwight Howard on when to help on LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard without neglecting the paint. It doesn’t matter how good Lin will be and how involved he’ll get – without a team-wide defensive performance, the Rockets won’t keep up with the Blazers’ shooting right now, especially in the Moda Center.