Despite Dwight Howard being the most recognized name and face on the Houston Rockets, it’s not going to be about him all the time, as the team played in Taiwan, the latest stop on their preseason tour, it was the backcourt’s turn, James Harden and especially Jeremy Lin due to the crowd’s demand, that made all the difference.
The Rocket beat the Pacers once again, 107-98, getting 21 points from Harden and an especially big night from Lin, who finished with 17 points, 4 assists, 3 steals and even one big block on Danny Granger, that had the home fans on their feet, obviously, with Lin being the main focus for the 13,686 fans in the Taipei Arena, trying to catch more than just a glimpse of the first American of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the league.
This is only preseason, but Lin is looking like someone who did all the right things and made all the right moves during the summer. Stronger, and possibly with a little bit more intensity to his game than before, which will be tested in the games that usually are the Achilles heel of his NBA career so far – when he has to go up against big, athletic point guards. Lin had no problem with George Hill or C.J. Watson, playing for 35 minutes, like it’s a regular NBA game.
The Rockets have looked good this offseason, winning both their Asian games against the Pacers, as Dwight Howard is slowly coming along, adding 10 points on 5-of-13 from the field this time. There has been the question of who should be the starting point guard for the Rockets, which Howard said doesn’t matter as long as the team plays well. He’s right, but this isn’t a world without egos and other such social and personal infliction. Lin needs to feel support, and everything about his play since becoming a Rockets player merits him a place in the starting lineup.
Omri Casspi has been the surprise of the preseason, adding 13 points and 9 rebounds with two three pointers, scoring in double figures in every game so far, shooting 76.2% from the field. Casspi is one of the more important additions to the Rockets this summer, even if he is going to come off the bench on most nights. The Rockets need more firepower from beyond the arc, and Casspi is right now playing like the guy the Kings enjoyed during his rookie season in 2009-2010. Still, despite his ability, he poses no threat to Chandler Parsons, finishing with 11 points and 6 rebounds on 25 minutes of basketball.
The last remaining positional battle is at power forward, with Terrence Jones squandering the chance he got instead of Donatas Montejunas, finishing with only 2 points on 1-of-8 from the field, while the Lithuanian scored 10 points coming off the bench. Montejunas is far from perfect, but he’s a lot more versatile than Jones, and has a bit more range to keep the spacing idea the Rockets are insisting on alive and well, especially when Howard takes the floor.
Jeremy Lin always needs to prove he belongs, and it’s going to be that way for a very long time. Some players just fall into certain slots and stigmas they can’t shake, no matter how well they play. It shouldn’t really be a question, but even if there is, there’s no doubt Kevin Mchale should look no further than Lin to be Harden’s partner in the backcourt.