Jeremy Lin sits and sits . . . and sits. He doesn't get back into the game until it's long gone and there's no chance to save the Houston Rockets from the most embarrassing collapse in NBA regular season history.
When Kevin McHale finally reinserts Lin, Oklahoma City holds a 97-89 lead with only 4:05 remaining. Lin immediately hits a long jumper, but it's too late to stave off the Rockets humiliation at this point. Houston — one of the most talented teams in the NBA — will limp to a still largely unfathomable 19-point second half with its best playmaker glued to the bench for large chunks of the meltdown.
Even Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant will be caught off guard by how low the Rockets managed to go.
"They scored 19 points in the second half?!" Durant says in a live on-court TNT interview. "Wow."
Even when Beverley is injured, Lin is only a starter during intros. Once the games start, McHale goes back to treating him like a scrub.
The really Wow is how McHale allows the Rockets to sink to historical futility while chaining his best point guard to the bench. All the analysis, all the articles written and all the groaning let loose in the days following Houston going from a 73 point first half to a 19-point second half somehow ignore this inconvenient truth.
It's easier to declare that the Rockets need to make a trade than to admit what they're wasting that's already on their roster.
Kevin McHale's treatment of Jeremy Lin has quickly gone from questionable to absurd. A 10-point win over the worst team in the NBA — with Terrence Jones treating the Bucks like they're Radford University — doesn't change this fact.
It's bad enough when McHale benches Lin for Patrick Beverley, a limited player whose intangibles somehow never seem to show up in any of the analytics that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey treasures. Lately, McHale's been benching Lin for Aaron Brooks, a 6-foot point guard who nearly found himself out of the league a few years ago.
In the Thunder debacle, Lin plays only 24 minutes, the same as Brooks. Two nights later against Milwaukee, Brooks gets 25 minutes and Lin receives a measly 23 minutes of court time.
Even when Beverley is injured, Lin is only a starter during introductions. Once the games start, McHale goes back to treating him like a scrub.
With Beverley set to return from his broken hand Monday night against the Portland Trailblazers, things aren't about to improve. McHale is already gleefully taking about Beverley and Lin being able to get back to their roles.
Which means Patrick Beverley will get unlimited chances as the starter while Jeremy Lin's tight leash continues off the bench.
Jeremy Lin's Sliding Minutes
Lin's dilemma is actually getting worse. Now McHale's taken to sitting the 25-year-old for ultra long stretches. The coach kept Lin on the bench for 17 straight minutes against the Bucks. He played him the first eight minutes against the Thunder and then didn't go back to Lin again till late in the first half. It's a farce that's only growing more ridiculous.
Only Morey and Rockets owner Leslie Alexander should not be laughing.
For the Rockets are continuing to flounder around, treading water in the power packed Western Conference. If the playoffs started today, McHale's team wouldn't even have homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Rockets are fifth in the West, one game ahead of current sixth seed Golden State, which has a ton of home games coming up. Do you really think anyone would favor Houston in a four-five series against the LA Clippers and Chris Paul?
The Rockets need a change in coaching philosophy. Someone must make McHale see the truth.
"I've thought the Rockets, all along, are not legit contenders," Charles Barkley declares on TNT.
Not with Patrick Beverley or Aaron Brooks playing point guard, they aren't.
With a Jeremy Lin who is given the confidence to attack and play through a few mistakes, they could be though.
McHale is stubbornly holding back his own team. Whether he cannot see the truth staring him in the face or simply doesn't want to see it, does not matter at this point. Lin's shown he can play at a level that neither Beverley or Brooks are capable of reaching. He's carried a team offensively before. Heck, he's carried these Rockets in stretches.
Houston simply doesn't have enough weapons to win in the playoffs if Lin continues to be benched and banished. Offensively is where its recent meltdowns have come. The pathetic finish in Atlanta after that 11-0 start. The second half implosion for the ages against the Thunder at home.
Francisco Garica and Omri Casspi are both much too inconsistent shooters to be counted on nightly. Chandler Parsons is a true third star only in Never Never Land. James Harden's individual brilliance and Dwight Howard's power and underrated heart will mean little in the end if Jeremy Lin isn't allowed to be a point guard.
Forget McHale's tired mumbo jumbo about the ball getting "sticky" sometimes (a lot of times) and Howard's naive insistence that the Rockets will just naturally grow to be better by April. The true super promise of the season is slipping away now thanks to the guy with the clipboard.
The Rockets need a change in coaching philosophy. Someone must make Kevin McHale see the truth he keeps looking away from.