Being a franchise player on a team means that decisions regarding adding and disposing of players involve you, which seems to be the case on the Houston Rockets, who are keeping Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin on the team partially because both Dwight Howard and James Harden want to play with them next season.
Right after, and even before the deal that brought Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets, it seemed like Lin and Asik were on the trading block. It’s not that Lin wanted to move, but with the Rockets already thinking about adding more players than just Howard, his $8.3 cap hit seemed like something to be used in a trade.
However, despite the talk of adding a third All-Star caliber player to the Rockets, it seems like they’re done for now when it comes to squad additions. Josh Smith, the primary target, signed with the Detroits Pistons, so the idea of putting Asik and Lin in a deal together for Smith went off the table. There were also talks about putting the same deal together to do some sort of sign & trade with the Los Angeles Clippers for Chris Paul, but those rumors were also killed quite quickly.
According to Jonathan Feigen Daryl Morey spoke to his assistant and said that with Harden and Howard, who have both been included in some decision making meetings, wanting to play with Lin and Asik on the team next year, both players won’t be moved. The idea was to keep Asik anyway, despite his reluctance to be a backup center to Howard, and try to move Lin. But there weren’t any buyers for his deal (which is worth $16.6 million for the next two seasons), and once again, the Rockets decided on moving ahead with them.
Is that so bad? Probably not. Kevin McHale isn’t Lin’s biggest fan, but with the ball in his hands, a lot of players look and play better. James Harden included, although he probably doesn’t remember a time in which the ball wasn’t in his hand. He has had some good games together with Lin when there wasn’t any uber-isolation and ball hogging coming from him, and there’s no doubt that Lin is an excellent passer and intelligent ball handler.
The question is what will be his role with the team next season. Kevin McHale hasn’t said anything, but from his decisions on the sidelines, it seems like he prefers Patrick Beverley as his starting point guard, and doesn’t mind misusing Lin as a spot up shooter, even if probably all players on the court, including Howard, Harden and obviously Chandler Parsons do much better when Lin handles the ball.
In any case, the Rockets are heading towards a season with very high expectations for the first time since the McGrady – Ming era, with a squad that has talent and two Dream-Team caliber players, and with more depth than they actually planned to have.
Is it going to be enough to win the title? It’s hard to say in the usually loaded West, but if Howard clicks right away, and doesn’t have any negative influence on James Harden, Jeremy Lin and the unhappy Omer Asik, things might look quite good right off the bat, and make the Rockets look like definite contenders very early on.