I had a feeling Lin would have a great game tonight (because it looked like Harden wasn’t going to be playing) and when I saw how aggressively Lin played in the second quarter (I missed most of the first quarter), I knew Lin would have his best game of the season. Lin finished by tying his career high 38 points (11 of 21 field goal and 4 of 5 threes), 7 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 2 steals, 2 block shots. Lin played well on both ends of the floor. Even though the Rockets lost in overtime to the Spurs tonight, it was a great game for the team and a very significant one at that. Because this game is not only a break out game for Lin, it is also a game that should serve as a wake up call to a Rockets coaching staff that has largely not allowed Lin to play Lin’s game. A coaching staff that hasn’t trusted Lin. A coaching staff that has benched Lin in the fourth in games that he’s played well (e.g., game in Portland and the Mavs game of a few nights ago)! (Even in tonight’s game, when McHale sat Lin right after Lin nailed a 3-pointer in the fourth the Rockets lost their 9-point lead in a hurry, so once again the coaches poor decision of sitting Lin out cost the win tonight. At least McHale quickly realized his mistake and brought Lin back in.) Games that the Rockets would have probably won had Lin had not been inexplicably benched. This Rockets coaching staff has hurt itself by their over-reliance on Harden at huge expenses to Lin. Every decision they’ve made on Lin has been to figure out how to make Harden better and they didn’t care that it meant that Lin would have to learn to play a style of basketball that Lin does not excel at. As a result, Lin has been struggling offensively and with each struggle Lin’s role has been diminished to the point where Lin received the least amount of playing time he’s ever had (post-Linsanity) against the Mavs in a game in which Lin didn’t do anything wrong to warrant the demotion.
It’s no coincidence that, once again, it took an injury to a star player for Linsanity to emerge. Because Lin’s best performance came against one of the best teams in the NBA, the Rockets won’t ignore the significance of this game. They have some hard thinking to do. I know the Rockets have been trying to figure out how Lin and Harden can coexist, but the thinking has been lopsided thus far. It has been trying to figure out how to use Lin in a way that doesn’t hurt Harden, even though it will probably hurt Lin. But after tonight’s game, they’re going to have to figure out how to best utilize both players so that it won’t significantly hurt either player. I’ve had the solution for quite some time. I’m just waiting for the Rockets to come around and figure it out. My solution is simple. Stop looking at Harden as a “superstar” or any player as a “superstar” for that matter. Just play team basketball. Let the ball find the optimal shot. This had been the plan for the Rockets all along and they threw it out the window once Harden came on board. Many fans forget, but I thought the Rockets had great chemistry in the preseason games. Even though we won games during Harden’s monster debut games, I commented that the chemistry and ball movement wasn’t anywhere close to as good as I saw the ball movement during the preseason. I was very excited about the Rockets team during the preseason, even before Harden, because I saw team basketball. Rockets need to go back to that style of basketball. And there’s no one better at running team basketball than Jeremy Lin. He proved that he can do it during Linsanity and tonight was no different. Linsanity is all about team basketball. Sure, Harden can make plays, but Harden is just not a floor general. Let Lin handle 75% of the floor general duties when Lin and Harden are on the floor together and just play simple team basketball. Pass the ball and move without the ball. That will solve everything on the offensive end. I think the Rockets coaching staff make it too tough on themselves. They have two guys who can make plays in Lin and Harden. Just let the guys play team ball, something that both players know how to do. Stop talking about how Harden has to have the ball. Just let the ball find the most optimal shot. This is what Lin excels at. Just let Lin play his style of basketball, because that’s exactly the style of basketball that the Rockets wanted to play before Harden arrived. This is why I was so excited about Lin with the Rockets, because during the preseason, I saw incredible ball movement. I have no idea if the coaching staff will figure this out or not. The same philosophy goes for when the game is on the line. The ball needs to start out in Lin’s hand–the Rocket’s best floor general. Buck the convention of having the ball start out in your best scorer’s hands. I’ve written about this before, so won’t dwell on this here. The Rockets have been searching for the answer to their Lin/Harden problem. Tonight, the answer hit them in the face. They just need to not be dumb enough to ignore it. If the coaching staff doesn’t make changes and start truly emphasizing and implementing an egalitarian offense with Lin running it, then this coaching staff needs to go if the Rockets ever want to succeed with this young group of guys. Hope Morey and Les are smart enough to see this.