Kevin McHale's Houston Rockets are floundering a bit, having lost two straight to two teams that will be nowhere near the Western Conference playoffs by April. James Harden and Dwight Howard are a fantastic duo, but it's become obvious they're not Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook or LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
They cannot carry a team regularly by themselves.
The Rockets need to dominate more Indiana Pacers like. They must do it as group. They require a third star.
Jeremy Lin's proven he can be that star. He just needs the minutes, the opportunity and the respect of a coach who believes in him. There's the hope in this mini skid. It's no coincidence that with Lin sidelined with a knee sprain, the Rockets offense has grown feeble against weaker teams. Now McHale just needs to recognize this and embrace Lin's difference-making ability like never before when the point guard returns.
As soon as Lin returns, McHale needs to reinstate him as the starter.
McHale needs Lin playing like a star if the Rockets are going to go deep in the playoffs. This is a mutually beneficial relationship if only McHale can see it. Patrick Beverley playing 42 minutes — and contributing two assists — turns Houston's offense to mush. Try 88 points against a limited Phoenix Suns team mush.
"We had no flow tonight," McHale said after the game in a press conference broadcast by CSN Houston. "I just thought the 13 assists, 23 turnovers — some really errant passing."
This is what happens when there's no true point guard in uniform.
Those flying tip ins from a guard — like Beverley pulled off in San Antonio — are fantastic. But they don't equal long-term success.
No NBA team's ever won big because its point guard was a great rebounder. The point needs to be a good distributor, an effective shooter and a fearless driver. In other words, the Rockets point guard must be more like Jeremy Lin.
As soon as Lin returns, McHale needs to reinstate him as the starter. No matter what one thinks the motivation behind it is, the forced Beverley Experiment clearly hasn't worked. The Rockets aren't better on defense. The Suns starting backcourt of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe combined for 39 points on 13 of 25 shooting Wednesday night. Tony Parker torched the Rockets for 27 points in his first game back from injury — when he clearly wasn't even 100 percent. Heck, Utah Jazz rookie point guard Trey Burke put up 21 points against Houston.
Jeremy Lin wasn't any less effective on defense than this.
Shutdown city has never materialized. And the Rockets are worse on offense.
The Rockets are 2-2 without Jeremy Lin and even the win in San Antonio — their most impressive win of the season so far — was somewhat fluky with Harden absolutely taking over and the Spurs blowing a late lead and inexplicably completely butchering the Hack-A-Howard strategy.
Chandler Parsons has also missed the two losses with back spasms, but he doesn't have the ability to change everything. Not in the way that a real point guard can.
If Rockets general manager Daryl Morey can bring Kyrie Irving walking through the Toyota Center doors, downgrading and attempting to trade Jeremy Lin becomes justified. But until that ever happens, this tendency to dismiss and diminish Lin is madness. You don't cripple a difference-making point guard because you think Patrick Beverley is "scrappy."
This is a league where talent wins. And Jeremy Lin is a talent.
It's almost fitting that the Rockets are giving away a Lin action figure to fans at Sunday night's home game against the Orlando Magic.
You don't cripple a difference-making point guard because you think Patrick Beverley is "scrappy."
Now that Lin is out of action, the team's brain trust finally may be figuring out how valuable he can be.
Tony Parker wasn't Tony Parker his first few seasons as a starter either. He needed to be allowed to grow to reach his true potential. Fortunately for Parker, he happens to play for Gregg Popovich — one of the most opened minded coaches in pro sports. It's probably no coincidence that Popovich is a big Jeremy Lin believer as well.
The Lin doubters can mock the point guard all they want. The truth is that no one will know just how good Jeremy Lin can be — or cannot be — until he plays for a coach who doesn't toy with his confidence. And minutes.
There's no reason that coach cannot be found in Houston. This Jeremy Lin absence should be the last piece of evidence Kevin McHale needs. If things don't change now, the Rockets are dooming themselves to being a second round playoff team. At best.
Where's the sense or pride in that?