To every issue the Houston Rockets have – from James Harden hogging the ball at the wrong time, to Jeremy Lin being underused; and Dwight Howard being underused; to Patrick Beverley risking his NBA future; and a team defense that is embarrassing to watch sometimes. Players should be blamed for mistakes they make, but when there are so many on a talented and better than what we’re getting from them team, the fingers should be pointed at the head coach, Kevin McHale.
The Patrick Beverley situation is interesting. He didn’t have a good game on both ends of the floor in week 1. He came back too soon from his Meniscus tear, and took a beating in the opener against the Blazers. But he wants to play, and McHale is letting him. Is he risking too much for too little? Or is this simply another example of how little McHale trusts Jeremy Lin as a starter, as a defending player, and as someone who can complement James Harden?
When a team looks so bad on defense for two consecutive seasons, it’s not just the players who need to be blamed. Yes, Harden and Parsons sometimes give laughable efforts on the perimeter. Jeremy Lin isn’t an all-defensive player, but he has good instincts when it comes to steals and getting in passing lanes. He will be better. He doesn’t just let players blow by him without actually trying to stop him. There’s a basic problem with this team’s defensive on a scheme level and in terms of effort.
When players feel like they won’t be held accountable for their mistakes, bad trends spread and continue to plague them while they’re on the court. This blind belief in James Harden and his ability to save the team out of any situation by ignoring everything and everyone around him doesn’t just come from Harden himself. No one actually believes that Harden is disobeying directions from the bench, and that he’s actually instructed to share the ball and let others act as point guards too.
And this goes back to the head coach again. McHale is the one letting Harden run wild on offense, which was part of what ruined Houston’s overtime effort in game 1. It frustrates players at some point, and is simply bad basketball, even though Harden is talented enough to make it look like a great decision from time to time. Fool’s gold, as we have already said about a dozen times over the course of this season.
From time to time during this year, we saw shades of the Rockets actually playing a little bit differently. Harden feeding the ball to others not just on fast breaks. An actual method of thinking on half court offense, even with the ball in his hands. But most of the time? Four players standing around, and waiting for the team’s star to make the right choice, with McHale giving him his backing, 100%.
Jeremy Lin has been underused this season. The Houston Rockets don’t play with a real point guard. Everyone is suffering from it in one way or another. Dwight Howard could be utilized a lot better. The Rockets were still a 54-win team, yet it feels like the process was wrong. They have a star, and they don’t seem to care about cultivating anything else. Maybe Harden himself should be smart enough to realize he needs to play differently when things aren’t working, but you also expect a hall of fame player on the sidelines to be smart enough to spot something everyone else has as well.