Jeremy Lin will find himself in a very unique position next season. So long as he is able to find a way to remain productive and efficient while playing beside a couple of the biggest stars in the NBA, he will remain on a viable championship contender for the foreseeable future. If he can’t mesh with the Houston Rockets’ starting lineup, though, and if he refuses to willingly except a Manu Ginobili-esque role off the bench, then he’ll be shipped off to whatever lottery team offers up a good deal for him.
Lin’s case is fascinating not so much because the notion of players improving with a new team is crazy, it’s because the circumstances in which he’s playing haven’t changed. If anything, they’ve gotten more burdensome. He’s a guy who needs to have the ball in his hands to be effective. However, much as he did last year, James Harden will continue to dominate the rock this coming season. On top of that, Dwight Howard will command the ball a lot as well.
So where does that leave Lin? Pretty much in the same place he was in last year. Unless his shooting and defense improved dramatically this summer and he plans to be content just sitting in the corner and waiting for a dish from inside, it’s hard to imagine Lin breaking out this season.
The problem for Houston, as the Los Angeles Lakers can probably attest to, is that Howard brings a media circus wherever he goes. That means the Rockets will be under a microscope from start to finish – and anything less than the conference finals will be dubbed a failure. So, whereas last year Lin and Harden could see what works and what doesn’t by trial and error, that won’t be an option in 2013-14. There can’t be any errors.
To make matters worse, the Rockets are going to be on TV all the time this year. As noted by the Houston Chronicle, this group “will make at least 26 appearances on national television outlets during the 2013-14 season.” Just to put that in perspective, last year’s schedule “included just two Rockets games on ESPN’s initial schedule and no games on ABC or TNT.” This year, however, Houston is “among six teams with the maximum 10 appearances on ESPN and one of six with at least nine games on TNT.”
Bottom line: Everyone will be watching.
The Rockets essentially have three months to work out the kinks. The players signed this summer can’t be traded until then, and a guy like Daryl Morey probably won’t want to rush things before then anyway. As this squad approaches the All-Star break, though, a decision will need to be made about Lin. At this moment, he and Omer Asik are the odd men out.
The funny thing is, all Lin, Asik and Rockets really have to do is get on the same page. Lin and Asik were brought in to play together without anyone encroaching on their territory, right? So why not just let them both come off the bench together and be done with it? Let Harden continue to have one of the highest usage rates in the NBA; let Howard continue to cry for touches like he did in L.A. despite the fact that he got a lot of touches that he ultimately screwed up; and let the two guys who were originally billed as the ones who’d return the Rockets to prominence lead the bench mob.
The solution to all of Houston’s problems isn’t difficult to figure out. Rather, the difficult part is convincing all parties involved to buy into the program and do what’s best for the team – even if it isn’t what they initially signed up for.