Minus Harden, Lin has his most important game of the Season against a great team

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.

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  • CH

    Thanks for the analysis, Mr. P. Both you and Mr PP are worrying that the Rox coaching staff won’t wake up and won’t trust Lin even after his big game tonight. It goes back to Lin has to prove himself again and again in order to gain other people’s trust, including coaches, teammates, doubters, and even haters. It’s just sad and frustrating. How many times he has to prove himself? Enough is enough!!! I’m thinking and I have the urge to bombard the Rox organization with your analysis. Seriously. No kidding. One more question, why there are so many views in this site, and yet, not many viewers share their views?

    • standupphilosopher

      Thanks for your comments, CH! I’m not sure why there are so many page views, but not very many comments. I think that’s just the way it goes on most sites. One factor is that I think you need a WordPress account to comment and I would guess that many readers of this blog don’t have a WordPress account.

      After watching McHale’s post game interview, i’m a little less confident that McHale will figure it out. I missed the last few minutes of the fourth quarter, but it seems that from McHale’s standpoint, Lin made the wrong call with the ball in his hands at the end of the game and McHale seems very disappointed in Lin for that. I think he really let Lin have an earful. But I also read comments on Dreamshake that McHale didn’t call time out. So I think McHale should put some blame on himself. McHale should also blame himself for sitting LIn right after Lin nailed a 3-pointer and the Rockets were up by 9. Right after they sat Lin, the Spurs came back in a hurry. In my view, that was the game. So McHale should take the blame for that and countless other errors this coaching staff has made with respect to Lin. Also, Harden has made so many errors at the end of games and I never saw McHale harp on any of those errors. I like Harden, but I think the coaching staff lets Harden get away with so much (i.e., turnovers) and they seem to harp on Lin for every little thing.

      Yep, Lin has to keep proving himself. During Lin’s post game interview, he said that he just played and didn’t think tonight. This is what I’ve been saying all along. That Lin just needs to play and not think. He’s been thinking way too much out there all season. Thinking about what the coaches want him to do. The coaches have been messing Lin up by not trusting Lin and trying to get him to play a style of basketball that Lin doesn’t excel at. Not sure if they’ll learn their lesson, though. McHale still seemed pretty disappointed in Lin during his post game interview tonight.

    • standupphilosopher

      I forgot to mention this in my post, but tonight was the first time I saw Lin consistently get high screens. So it’s no coincidence that Lin had a great game, because those high screens are what Lin excels at. Hopefully, they look at the video and start giving Lin more high screens even when Harden comes back. I’m not confident this will be the case, though. We’ll see.

    • MrPingPong

      Just for the sake of making conversation, here is Ric Bucher again:

      http://sulia.com/channel/basketball/f/8abe17e8-0e8f-49be-92de-b714d054e73a/?source=twitter

      BTW, it’s very easy to comment on this blog. All you need is to enter a valid e-address. No account registration is required.

      • standupphilosopher

        Thanks for the link, MrPingPong! I’m glad someone out there is talking about this.

        Also, I didn’t know that you don’t need an account to comment on this blog. Thanks for the info.

    • MrPingPong

      To paraphrase Bruce Lee, “…like water, baby, like water…”. The basketball should move and the players should move without it and flow like water…

      Again, Philosopher, you just point out more of what is wrong with McHale. Instead of recognizing his own coaching shortcomings, he had to find ways to criticize Lin: “…Lin should have done this and that, etc…”. Because McHale does not admit his mistakes and reflect on them, he will never improve as a coach. He was great as a player, yes, but coaching takes a different skill, and McHale has not shown he possesses such a skill.

      The only coach that has full confidence in Lin is D’Antoni. Lin opened D’Antoni’s eyes on Feb 04, 2012 (by pure accident). D’Antoni wasted no time making Lin the starting PG of the Knicks right after that one game. And for 25 games in that 2011-2012 season, Lin brought tears of joy to basketball fans all over the world with what could only be described as Linsane basketball. Still, for many so-called basketball pundits, the basketball is flat, not round and thus should be stuck in isolation…

      🙂

      It’s Linsanity 2.0 now. Quick Morey, call up Disney. The person who writes the best script for Linsanity 2.0 should be the next coach for Lin and the Rockets.

      Against all odd over and over again, Jeremy Lin! Prove yourself one more time this time! But then be prepared for Linsanity 3.0 when you will have to prove yourself again, and again, ad infinitum…

      • standupphilosopher

        I don’t know enough about McHale as a coach, so I’ll still give him some slack. Although the slack is quickly tightening. I think he is a good communicator to his players and that is one of the most important skills to have as a coach. I think his problem with Lin is that he had never been sold on Lin and so Lin will keep having to prove himself to McHale.

        Yeah, D’Antoni is the only coach Lin has had who had full confidence in Lin’s game, because D’Antoni’s offense relies on a great Point Guard. That’s the thing about D’Antoni, he’s not a very good coach. His coaching pretty much amounts to letting the Point Guard do all the work. So in that sense, he does stay out of the players ways. But he’s not a very motivating coach and doesn’t really know much nor does he care about defense, which is critical to winning. I’ve never been high on D’Antoni, but I will admit that he is the only coach to have full confidence in Lin. McHale runs a similar offense to D’Antoni, or at least he wanted to before Harden came on board. But McHale is more hands on, which I don’t think is a bad thing. But McHale does need to take a page from D’Antoni’s playbook in how D’Antoni treated Lin. One thing I didn’t like about how D’Antoni played Lin is that he NEVER let Lin play off the ball. I think that made it very tiring for Lin to always have to create with the ball in his hands. I wanted D’Antoni to run screens for Lin off the ball, like how the Nets do with D Williams. But D’Antoni never did anything innovative with the offense. What I do like about McHale is that his offense is a little less predictable than D’Antoni’s. But McHale needs to have Lin bring the ball up more consistently. Again, 75% of the time, Lin should be the floor general when both Lin and Harden are on the floor together. It doesn’t make any sense why they want Lin to play off the ball when Harden is much better at playing off the ball. He played off the ball quite a bit in OKC. I don’t think much needs to change. All the coaches need to do is trust Lin more and just stay the hell out of his way. They’re making Lin think way too much when he’s on the floor. He’s constantly thinking if he’s doing what the coaches want him to do, rather than just play his heart out. In sports, the moment you start thinking, you’ve lost.

      • MrPingPong

        “In sports, the moment you start thinking, you’ve lost.” You said it, Philosopher. You do seem to know a thing or two about sports in general, and basketball in particular. I really appreciate your calm and composed reaction to comments on this blog.

        Japanese martial art talks about a mental state paradoxically called “no mind”. Mushin is the word. Mu (無) means ‘devoid of’. Shin (心) means ‘heart’. For a martial artist, the heart and mind are together. You train to no longer think and feel when you are to respond to adversity. Of course, martial art is not a sports, for one thing, there is no rule in martial art. But a lot of martial art principles and practices can be appropriately applied to sports.

        I am a little bit off topic here, perhaps, but for interested readers, here is a link to Wikipedia about mushin, the state of no-mind.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mushin

      • standupphilosopher

        Thanks, MrPingPong!

        I am familiar with “no mind”. I used to be very much into Zen, which has similar concepts. In psychology, they call this state “flow”. Being in a state of flow is critical to peak performance–especially in sports. Lin was in flow, last night, as he was during Linsanity. Last night, he said that he just played. He wasn’t thinking. That’s the key.

  • I think since from the beginning, the issue is in the coaching staff.
    I really hope and pray that someone from the Rox organization is following this blog of yours Mr. Philosopher.
    This is their reminder when in the first place they should know what they are doing..smh

    • in my own opinion

    • standupphilosopher

      Thanks, Rubelyn!

      I highly doubt anyone in the Rockets organization is following my little blog, but one could hope. Spreading the word about this blog also couldn’t hurt, I suppose.

  • Niv

    I do not want to read too much into it. This is just my conjecture .Do you guys think that the rockets coaching staff is trying to deny Lin?
    I have a bad feeling that if coach had sat Lin in and called for a timeout and if the rockets had won, it would definitely bring up alot of questions about how Lin and Harden would work. Not only that , if Lin scored well and the team won it would make a bigger statement about Lin’s abilities. If we were to assume that Mchale has and is still not high on Lin and wants to make Harden the main offensive weapon, then it could explain why he is making silly decisions. Sadly,this is almost like what happened with MElo. If Lin thrives without Harden, and most importantly, if the team wins, it would be a perfect story for sports writers to sensationalise things and this might hurt the team in the long run. This is one of the reasons I felt contributed to Lin being kicked out of the knicks. I know it sounds silly because at the end of the day, an organisation should be about winning and if Lin did well then they would not look silly that is why I can understand why fans are upset and this is not the first time that this has happened. I think what is so frustrating is that both Lin and Harden are still young and we dont know their potential yet and if they were expected to sacrificed their stats for the team, it might be tough for them to do. They have so much to prove especially Lin. We all know Lin is supposedly a team guy first but sometimes he needs to selfish ..but who is the coach going to allow to have more freedom? If you look at wade and LEbron, they did sacrifice their game BUT wade led a team to a championship and Lebron led his team to the finals with non stars on his team. They had sort of gained some form of respect already and even in Miami, it is clear that Lebron in the leader. I can understand if Harden would find it tough to sacrifice his game and Let Lin run the show. whatever it is I hope the coaching staff can figure something out and I hope this would give Lin more confidence moving foward.

    • MrPingPong

      Likewise, Niv!

      It is my conjecture that the Rockets coaching staff are clueless about Lin. At first I thought McHale and Sampson were protecting Lin from over expectation by saying that Lin was essentially a rookie. But then look at what has happened: in the preseason, Lin dribbled up the court and passed to ball to KM, and for the whole season up until last night, Lin dribbled up the court and passed the ball to Harden. They are making Lin play like a rookie, not trusting him at all. Why? I have come to the conclusion that because they really believe in their mind that Lin is a rookie and force him to play that way.

      I hope in his own mind, Lin does not think he is a rookie. I hope he says to himself that he is as good as any elite PG out there and go out and play the way he knows how to play: aggressive but totally unselfish team ball! Everybody looks good because of Lin. Asik would not have got numbers like last night, if it weren’t for Lin.

      I listen to every Lin’s interviews. There is absolutely no hate in this young man’s heart. He never cuts down nor calls out anybody. He is his worst critic. He does not care about his stats. The only part of the stats he cares about is the win/loss column for the team. He does not like to lose. Whenever his team wins, he gives all credits to the coaching staff and his teammates. And whenever the team loses, it’s on him. Amazing character!

      • Zanoff

        Nicely observe. Like..

    • standupphilosopher

      Right now, I’m just in a wait-and-see approach. Just waiting to see if this coaching staff makes any changes to Lin’s role once Harden returns. It might take a couple of games to execute their plan, but if I don’t see any changes after a couple of games once Harden returns, then that tells me everything I need to know about this coaching staff and what they think of Lin.

      For sure, the coaching staff hasn’t been high on Lin and when they got Harden they went overly insane about Harden and just swept Lin aside. I may not have agreed with it, but I kind of understood where they were coming from. After last night’s game, though, they should wake up to the fact that they may have been wrong about Lin all along. So if they don’t then it shows that they’re totally blind.

      The coaches have been very unfair to Lin, because they only care about how to use Lin without hurting Harden in any way, even though it would hurt Lin significantly. It’s unfair, because Harden is significantly better at playing off the ball and is no where near as good as Lin at being the floor general. Harden is much more of a pure scorer. So if they want to figure out how to best utilize both Lin and Harden, they should have favored having Lin be the primary floor general and having Harden playing off the ball most of the time. That would have been the reasonable solution. Instead, they went against reason, because of their over favoritism of Harden. If you think about it, Harden and Lin had instant chemistry in Harden’s debut games. They were just playing. It wasn’t until the coaches had practices and made Harden the number one option that things fell apart. Also, in Harden’s debut games, Lin was successful even without screens, because Harden fed Lin the ball, since Harden wasn’t familiar with any of the other Rockets players. Since then, Lin rarely gets the ball back when he gives it up. If you’re not getting screens and your shot is not falling, it’s very difficult to contribute offensively if you’re trying to beat your man who is staying back daring you to shoot the ball. It makes it a little easier when you get the ball back from your teammates, catching your man off guard. This is why Lin was able to score during Harden’s debut games, even without screens. And last night, Lin’s teammates had confidence in him for the first time since he’s been in Houston and he actually got the ball back after he gave it up consistently. This was another factor for Lin’s success last night. So I’m hoping that’s a wake up call to Lin’s teammates to trust Lin more.

      This is pure conjecture on my part, but I think Harden is more than happy to give Lin the floor general duty. I think it’s just the coaches that have been messing them up. I have no doubt that Harden was very happy to see Lin playing aggressively. Harden doesn’t see it as a threat to his game. I think Harden welcomes another teammate who can make plays. It will only become an issue when Harden doesn’t see much of the ball, which would be understandable. And that’s what the Rockets coaches are most concerned about. But I think they should just try out having Lin be the primary floor general and see how it goes and make adjustments from there. Rather than doing what they’re doing now, which doesn’t make any sense for either player–especially for Lin.

      • MrPingPong

        A lot of what you say make a lot of sense, Philosopher.

        I am in the same opinion with you that it’s the coaching staff that messed up the instant chemistry between Lin and Harden. Golly, it’s hard to disagree with you, Philosopher!

        🙂

        Let’s wait and see.

      • CH

        IT IS SAD. HE HAS TO PROVE HIMSELF AGAIN AND AGAIN….EVEN THE COACHING STAFF ARE BLIND, THEIR EYES WILL BE WIDE OPENED IN THE DAYS AHEAD IF LIN PLAYS GAMES LIKE LAST NIGHT WHEN HARDEN IS OUT. THEY WILL LEARN THE LESSON EVENTUALLY, BUT IN A HARD WAY. AND IT WON’T COME EASY. ROOT OF THE PROBLEM? THEY DON’T TRUST LIN. PERIOD. WHY DID THEY WANT TO SIGN HIM IF IT IS THE CASE? OR WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF SIGNING HIM? BTW, JUST SHARE THIS WEBSITE AT SEVERAL FORUMS AND AT THE ROX FACEBOOK PAGE.

      • standupphilosopher

        Thanks for very much for sharing the site, CH! Very much appreciated!

        This quote by McHale may give Lin fans some hope. McHale said this BEFORE the Spurs game, when asked about adjustments that they need to make for the Spurs game without Harden. Hopefully now McHale feels even more strongly about this:

        “We have to find a way to get Jeremy playing with the ball more even playing with James,” McHale told the Houston Chronicle. “We’ve got to make sure he’s able to do some things and have some strong side, weak side action where he is involved, anyway.”

  • Zanoff

    Zanoff
    The big problem for Morey and the Rockets now is they learn that two of their big stars can’t play together. Maybe they did not studied Harden style which is the same with that of Lin style. Lin is very effective when he runs the ball or makes the play. Lin has statistics in New York that he is shooting below his percentage when he receives the ball from a team mate assist while he is deadly and more effective when he runs the ball. That reality is seen tonight versus the last 19 games played by the rockets.
    For now I agree with some comments that Lin and Harden must not play together. One thing lacking with Lin’s pick and roll game is a one player to become effective recipient of the pick and roll inside the paint. In the bench we have a 7footer Donatas, I hope the coaching staff will going to have it in practice. When Lin is in the floor we only need a shooting guard who will play as a spot up shooter only.

    That’s a temporary adjustment for now…
    The big adjustment would be Morey has to select 1 and let go 1 between Harden and Lin… Everybody makes a mistake, but one has to make a big decision after a mistake.

    On my personal opinion, Martin would have been very effective at number 2 with Lin. The only lacking is they need an offensive big man player at number 4 for the post up and pick and roll. They already have this player in the person of 7footer Donatas M.

    • standupphilosopher

      Morey’s number one goal was to get a star-caliber player whenever he has the chance. So that’s why they got Harden. I think they were hoping that it would work with Harden and Lin and I think it’s still too early to say either way. Lebron and Wade faced similar issues in Miami and it took them two years or so to figure it out.

      The Rockets are trying to figure out how best to utilize both players, but thus far, as I’ve mentioned the equation has been lopsided. So I’m hoping that the Spurs game will get them to figure out a more optimal solution for both players. I think having Lin be the dominant floor general when both Lin and Harden are on the floor together is a sensible solution, since Harden is much more comfortable playing off the ball than Lin is. After all, he did that in OKC. This interview with Harden today is encouraging. The video starts at 1:15. Harden is more than willing to play off of Lin:

      http://www.nba.com/rockets/video/james-harden-12112012#

      In addition to having Lin be the primary floor general when Harden and Lin are both on the floor together Rockets can also stagger their minutes so Harden can be the floor general when Lin is not on the floor with him.

      I think it’s way too early to say that it’s not going to work and that they have to pick one over the other. Right now, from the Rockets perspective, they have two of the best pick and roll players in the league. They’d be crazy to give that up. They would turn Lin into a 6th man before they even think of giving up on the idea of having both players on the same team.

      In addition to all this, both Lin and Harden are young players and can still develop more aspects of their games. For example, having Lin play off the ball may be painful now, but could benefit Lin in the long term. Fans just need to be patient.

      I would like to see DMo out there, as well as TJones. I have no idea when this coaching staff is going to play more of their players. They got a good bench with players that can play multiple positions. They’re just not playing them. Rockets could have very interesting versatile lineups, but I think our coaching staff either doesn’t trust young players enough or doesn’t have enough creativity to make it all work out. If we want to maintain a high-energy level of play, we need to give our guys rest and bring in fresh legs. I don’t know what it’s going to take for this coaching staff to realize this. Right now, Harden and Parsons are playing way too many minutes.

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