Lin Schools Pat, Hou Laughs Last

Jeremy Lin schools Patrick Beverley, but Dwight Howard elbows Kobe Bryant aside in deceiving Rockets laugher

Jeremy Lin schools Beverley, but Dwight Howard laughs at Kobe Bryant

Jeremy Lin rim Lakers
Jeremy Lin got to the rim against the Houston Rockets and forced Dwight Howard to the bench with foul trouble. But his old team still won easily. Photo by Robyn Beck/APF
Jeremy Lin drive Lakers
Jeremy Lin frequently beat Patrick Beverley on drives into the lane. Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Kevin McHale, Jeremy Lin, Rockets, basketball, November 2012
Jeremy Lin is free of Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale — and now he can play more free. Houston Rockets/Facebook
Jeremy Lin rim Lakers
Jeremy Lin drive Lakers
Kevin McHale, Jeremy Lin, Rockets, basketball, November 2012

LOS ANGELES — Jeremy Lin blows by Patrick Beverley again and again, giving the LA Lakers brief third quarter life, making even the beautiful people look up from their iPhones. Beverley, the phantom defensive stopper, clearly cannot keep Lin out of the lane.

When Lin beats Beverley off the dribble for a second straight time and flips in a shot off the glass with his off hand as Terrence Jones fouls him, Will Ferrell gives a fist pump.

It's a nice moment for the former Houston Rocket, a clear sign things will be very different for Lin in LA than they were in the Bayou City. But the Rockets are going to make sure Lin's moment is fleeting on this opening night. Oh, Beverley doesn't have all that much to do with it. In fact, he gives more of an early preview of how much Daryl Morey will regret jettisoning his best true point guard in the end. But with the individual efficient brilliance of James Harden and a rare angry game from Dwight Howard, Houston puts on quite a show for openers.

Kevin McHale and James Harden have never had trouble with beginnings.

 The difference between the way Byron Scott and Kevin McHale talk about and treat Lin is already dramatic. 

And the Rockets go rolling onto Utah with a 108-90 dismantling of the Lakers that's not even that close for much of the fourth. Harden only needs to play three quarters to rack up 32 points and get to the free throw line 16 times. Howard plays even less (just 20 minutes due to foul trouble), but grabs the signature moment of the game when he swings his elbows and connects with a purposefully pestering Kobe Bryant while commanding a rebound.

Suddenly, Kobe is mouthing "Try me" at the man who spurned LA for Houston and even Kanye West and Kim Kardashian have something to talk about.

"They don't like each other," Lakers coach Byron Scott says of the Kobe & Howard show. "Simple as that."

That's confirmed when Bryant claims he does like Howard, just so he can call him "a teddy bear," damning the big man who yearns to be dominant with another soft image. Yes, Kobe truly is wicked.

Lakers-Rockets could be on its way to becoming a nice little rivalry again — with real, personal venom. Lin's drive-bys of Beverley in the third quarter, Scott's comments about Dwight's lack of championship want-to, Kobe's comments about Dwight, Harden's desire to prove he's blown past Kobe . . . it's all coming together in a stew of hatred. But the Lakers need to do a lot of work to make it matter.

It's no surprise that the Rockets are far ahead of the Lakers in late October. Even having lost three players who are starting for other Western Conference teams, Morey's franchise still has two All-NBA caliber stars in Harden and Howard. That's one more than the Lakers have. And LA has more continuity issues than the Rockets.

No wonder Houston trails for only 21 seconds in the whole game.

"They shot the crap out of the ball," Scott says of the Rockets.

It's a good start for a Rockets team that should be 4-0 heading into Tuesday's game at Miami. But this idea that it's somehow a disaster for Jeremy Lin is a joke that's a figment of Lin Only Haters imagination. Yes, Lin puts up only seven points, but your first game with a new franchise (especially when it's the first game back for one of that franchise's all-time legends) is not the time to force up shots.

Jeremy Lin's Limited Opener

Lin only takes five shots on this night, but his penetration does plenty for the Lakers — and there are a number of encouraging signs. He plays 29 minutes, tied for the team lead with Kobe Bryant. He picks up six assists while creating easy baskets for bigs like Carlos Boozer and Ed Davis. Those six assists could easily be nine assists if not for a few teammate fumbles (Jordan Hill, one of the worst starters in the NBA, has a particularly rough night).

It is Lin's penetration that forces Howard to the bench just 73 seconds into the third quarter too. The Rockets defensive backbone (really their only real defensive bone period) picks up his fourth foul on a Lin drive and his absence opens up everything, exposing Beverley's defense on Lin.

"I thought he did a pretty good job to be honest with you," Scott says of Lin. "Especially in the second half . . . I thought he was much more aggressive and that's what we need Jeremy to be."

 Imagine that. A coach encourages Jeremy Lin to attack and then gives him a real chance to do it. The difference between the way Byron Scott and Kevin McHale talk about and treat Lin is already dramatic — and glaringly obvious.

Lin plays the entire third quarter on this night. For the first time since his run in New York with Mike D'Antoni, Lin doesn't need to look over his shoulder and anticipate the move of a coach itching to yank him. With Lin playing well and driving the Lakers, Byron Scott actually lets him play on.

 Suddenly, Kobe is mouthing "Try me" at the man who spurned LA for Houston and even Kanye West and Kim Kardashian have something to talk about. 

Down the floor, McHale must be scratching his head at such a "novel" move.

A little support goes a long way in building trust. No wonder why Jeremy Lin stands in front of his locker and tries to shoulder the burden of this 18-point loss.

"I don't think I did a great job of doing the things I wanted to do," Lin says simply. "Thought defensively, I was fine. Just got to make more plays though."

On this opening night, it's easy to look at the box scores and assume Morey and the Rockets are coming out ahead after that disastrous offseason. After all, Chandler Parsons comes out clanking for the Dallas Mavericks, missing a potential game-winning 3-pointer, putting up an ugly 2-for-10 shooting clip overall, in a loss at San Antonio. Lin only takes those five shots. Only Omer Asik (14 points, 17 rebounds) looks like his powerful self and Anthony Davis' blinding superstar talent guarantees no one will much notice his partner's line anyway.

Don't read too much into opening night though. The Rockets should be a step ahead at this point.

The Lin Only Haters will never acknowledge it, but there are cracks already showing through. Lin leaving Beverley in the dust is an ominous sign in a West full of quick elite point guards. October masterpieces are nice, but they have an ugly way of meaning little in April.

Regrets almost never come early.