No Jeremy Lin, No Win
Jeremy Lin isn't put back into the game until there are 8.4 seconds left. By then, every bit of the Houston Rockets' huge lead is long gone. And so is another win.
It will all be treated like some great mystery though by those who don't want to accept how crucial Lin is to the Rockets.
If any other team in the NBA blows a 14-point fourth quarter lead with its best point guard glued to the bench from the 9:17 mark until only 8.4 seconds remain, the head coach of that squad is coming under fire. When it's the Rockets, Kevin McHale and Jeremy Lin, the coaching blunder isn't even acknowledged.
Not having the team's best point guard on the floor couldn't have anything to do with the Rockets managing only two points in the last 2:53 of the game and missing their last five shots from the field. Don't be crazy. That's real Linsanity.
McHale continues to reinforce the notion that he cannot wait to bench Lin at any opportunity. And you think Gary Kubiak has a short leash with Keenum?
The legion of Lin doubters want you to believe that the Rockets imploding and Lin sitting are mere coincidence. Which would be funny. If it wasn't so damaging to the Rockets' championship dreams.
Houston is an 8-5 team after that giveaway game in Dallas in no small part because McHale's shown no real grasp of playing rotations. Omer Asik is already all but banished and on the way out, having committed the great sin of believing Daryl Morey's free agent pitch from the summer of 2012. Lin got his starting job yanked away for a much less legitimate reason than Asik, but he's soldiering on and taking what's given to him.
Which happens to be one of the shortest leashes for a difference-making point guard in NBA history.
Lin didn't play particularly well against the Mavericks early, but how does a player who came into the game averaging 22.6 points per game over his last five games get only 17 minutes of playing time?
McHale continues to reinforce the notion that he cannot wait to bench Jeremy Lin at any opportunity. And you think Gary Kubiak has a short leash with Case Keenum?
How does McHale not get Lin back into the Mavericks game as the Rockets melt down in the fourth quarter? Maybe, it was the great defense that bulldog Patrick Beverley must have been playing. Oh, that's right, Dallas' best backcourt player (Monta Ellis) torched Houston for 37 points.
The Rockets being this great defensive force with Beverley on the court is the NBA's version of Bigfoot. All myth.
But that's another one of those things that must not be spoken of. When Ricky Rubio — the young point guard of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Rockets' next opponent Saturday night — is benched by former Rockets coach Rick Adleman, it makes NBA headlines. When Lin is granted even less playing time, it's instantly regarded as something that must be his own fault.
Now Rubio is a much better passer and a much more entertaining player than Jeremy Lin (there is plenty of Showtime flair in the Spaniard's game). But Rubio is also a much worse shooter than Lin — and it's hard to argue he is more of a difference maker at this point.
Ricky Rubio Lessons
Rubio's Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is 14.35. Lin's stands at a stellar 18.88. (By contrast, Beverley's PER measures in at 12.64 — ouch.)
Yet when Rubio's playing time gets yanked around, it's news. When Lin is inexplicably told he's no longer a starter and then later essentially ignored in the wake of a great five-game run, it's touted as smart basketball by the same stat heads who usually rely on . . . you know, stats.
How many more games do the Rockets have to blow before the need for Lin to close games is recognized? You really don't think an extra passer, an extra ball mover, an extra driver would have made a difference in the American Airlines Center the other night?
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle didn't just channel Gregg Popovich in that between quarters ESPN interview. He schooled McHale like Popovich figures to if need be in the playoffs as well. Carlisle pulled off this comeback with the much less talented team.
How many more games do the Rockets have to blow before the need for Lin to close games is recognized?
The Rockets never blow that lead if the right players are on the floor. Dwight Howard lightly tossing that ball toward a Dallas heckler, drawing a senseless technical floor, suddenly doesn't loom so large with a little better fourth quarter shot selection.
How many more games are the Rockets going to toss away? It's earlier than early, but in a talent-packed Western Conference late separation figures to be hard to come by.
Jeremy Lin's more than earned a little benefit of the doubt at this point, the chance to play through a bad beginning. McHale's insistence otherwise only sets the Rockets up for a horrific final ending.