There’s a good chance Jeremy Lin will be ready to play for the Houston Rockets by the time they play in their next game – a Thursday showdown with the Portland Trail Blazers. The problem right now? Not just his health and finding his rhythm once more, but hoping that Kevin McHale hasn’t used this opportunity to cement Patrick Beverley in the starting lineup, making this once again the James Harden show.
Lin should know better than anyone how quickly things change in the NBA when they go well. He won his fame through a stunning two-week stretch with the New York Knicks, coming out of nowhere from the ends of the bench to become a start starter in a matter of no time. While there isn’t any doubt who is the best point guard the Rockets have, Kevin McHale has different plans in his mind when his backcourt is concerned.
Lin has started in 8 out of 16 games this season, as McHale began preferring Beverley in the lineup to him. Why? Beverley is a better defender, but a far worse playmaker and shooter. However, he doesn’t create a problem for James Harden to handle the ball as much as he likes. Lin, as most point guards do, doesn’t release the ball automatically from his hands just so the biggest ego on the team can be satisfied with his touches. Beverley? He’s all for playing slowly, ruining fast breaks and giving the ball to Harden just so he can run the team as he sees fit.
Coming back from his knee injury, Lin will be coming off the bench, probably in a smaller role (playing 30.1 minutes a night compared to 32.2 last season) than we’ve seen him, just as a precaution. However, this might be the chance for McHale to squash the idea of Lin playing a major part in his rotation.
Why should he? The Rockets are trying to trade Omer Asik quite aggressively, which isn’t working for them too well so far, hoping to land a draft pick and clear some cap space. Why? Howard and Harden want another superstar next to them. What’s preventing it? Having Lin and Asik combine for $16.6 million on the salary cap bothers Morey and McHale, so moving Asik and then Lin might be their plan to get that third superstar, even though the only team to have made it work have been the Miami Heat. Not the Knicks, the Nets or the Lakers have been able to work that max-contract concentration concept.
So if Lin is slightly pushed out of the rotation, maybe he’ll start asking for a trade. He’s quite popular with the fan base, as he should be, so it wouldn’t be very wise trading him right now, especially when he plays such a big part when the team does well. But if the Rockets can find a way to make a move inside the team to slightly demote his importance, which helps Harden be as commanding as he wants to be? Why not.
That, obviously, would be a mistake. Harden is somewhat of fool’s gold. He can be amazing sometimes, but his playing style without curbing it a little bit results in underachieving, time and time again. He’s the best shooting guard in the league, but it’s his selfishness that’s stopping him from being that way on a consistent basis. Jeremy Lin is the kind of player the Rockets need in order to make all the functions in this team work – the best playcaller they have, and the one who should be running the point, not Beverley or Harden. These last couple of wins against the Magic and the Mavs were able to mask that fact, at least for a short while.