Things in the NBA rarely change overnight. If Jeremy Lin struggled to fit into the Houston Rockets’ starting lineup last season, it’s difficult to make the case that something different will be true this season. That’s probably why, up to this point, most analysts have agreed that you’ll likely see the same displays of strengths and weaknesses from the 24-year-old in 2013-14 as you did in 2012-13.
There is one caveat to that, though.
So far, most of the talk regarding Dwight Howard’s impact on Lin has centered around the former taking away the latter's touches. And seeing as Lin needs to dominate the ball and run the offense -- as point guards typically do -- in order to be effective, Houston’s big summer signing was seen as potentially the straw that broke the camel’s back.
What if it isn’t?
The general assumption up until now has been that Harden’s usage rate, the ninth highest in the NBA last year, would remain astronomical and that Howard’s touches would come out of Lin’s total. But what if they don’t? What if they come out of Harden’s? Mind you, Harden has never played with an offensively-capable big. Lin has. He and Amar’e Stoudemire actually had a reasonably decent amount of chemistry before the latter got hurt.
If Harden’s usage went down and Lin’s went up, it wouldn’t just benefit Lin, it would benefit Howard as well.
The question at this point is: Is Kevin McHale willing to take the ball out of Harden’s hands?
Lin is a better playmaker than Harden; Harden is a better shooter than Lin. Forcing Lin stand in the corner and wait for the kick out, rather than letting him control the offense, is absolutely ludicrous given the skill sets all involved possess. It’s move motivated solely based on how much money everyone earns, and not what position they need to be in if they want to be successful.
Unfortunately, in the NBA, money and names dictate how teams play almost as much as, you know, how they should play. Time will tell if that’ll be the case in Houston this year, but it definitely was the case last year.
One thing is for certain, though: Howard getting picked up is either the best thing that could’ve happened to Lin, or the final nail in the coffin as far as his relationship with the Rockets.