As you know, I’ve been taking a break from watching the Rockets now that Jeremy Lin has been sidelined with an injury. I just can’t get myself that excited for the games without Lin on the court. After all, Lin is the one who brought me back from a very long hiatus from being a huge NBA fan during the Jordan era.
If I had been watching the games, I think I would have some of the same things to say as Chris Baldwin in his latest article: “Jeremy Lin’s Absence Needs to Open Kevin McHale’s Stubborn Mind”.
First of all, I love the title, as it points to McHale’s stubborn mind. I’ve observed McHale for an entire season, and I’ve never heard him admit to making a mistake the entire time he’s coached, though he’s made numerous glaring mistakes. McHale is, indeed, a very stubborn individual and this is the big thing that makes me very low on McHale, because in order to learn, you need to have an open mind and admit when you’ve made mistakes. McHale is still very new to coaching, so learning is something that he MUST do, yet, I don’t see him learning anything from his experience last season. He still makes the same mistakes. He only changes the way he coaches when he forced to due to injuries.
Though I haven’t been watching the games, it’s interesting how Rockets didn’t seem to miss a beat when Harden was sidelined, but now with Harden back and the Rockets have two of their superstars, they’re unable to beat some of the worst teams in the NBA. To me, that should be a BIG lesson in and of itself for McHale, Morey and the NBA as a whole, that is so fixated on superstars. The NBA is a league that’s all about superstars. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Superstars are very important. But I think coaches and GMs get clouded by this overemphasis of superstars (e.g., Knicks) at the expense of actually putting together a team and rotations that actually win games. The MOST important factor to me is chemistry. Superstars are only as important as the positive effect they have to the chemistry of a team. This is what makes Lebron the best player in the game today. He makes his teammates better.
If teams are serious about actually winning games rather than getting big names, I think rotations would look a little different. They’d be more efficient. I think teams over play their superstars at the expense of important role players. This is a problem with the entire league, but is most prominent with McHale, who is ALL about superstars. McHale only trusts a few guys at the expense of all the other guys. It’s only when he’s forced to does he start playing a wider rotation and balancing out the minutes. I’m not saying that superstars aren’t important. They are. But I just think the conventional wisdom over emphasizes their importance and this negatively impacts strategies that actually helps teams win games.
When we get outside of this “star fucking” mentality in the NBA, I think we would realize that the MVP of a team may not always been the superstar top five player. Don’t get me wrong, it USUALLY is. But in certain teams, the top five player may not be the most valuable one on the team due to the makeup of the team and such. I think this may be the case with the Houston Rockets. Here’s a simple fact, with their two superstars, the Houston Rockets can’t beat up on a couple of the worst teams in the NBA. That being the case, how can they be seen as the most valuable members on the team? When Harden was out, the Rockets didn’t seem to miss him. So how can Harden be seen as the most valuable player on the team? I know this is heretic stuff I’m spreading. But I’m just looking at the situation as it is, without this “star fucking” preconception.
Here’s another simple fact: Jeremy Lin was able to beat up on teams like the Lakers and Mavs with a bunch of scrubs + Tyson Chandler (but Tyson Chandler is a scrub on the offensive end). And Lin did this barely knowing any of his teammates. I would say if you take off your “star fucking” goggles, Lin is the Most Valuable Player on pretty much ANY team. And it has nothing to do with him being a top 5 player or anything. It’s the way Lin plays. Lin makes ANY four guys on the court better. He PROVED this during Linsanity. Steve Novak actually got into the three point shooting contest, because of Lin. What did Novak do last season without Lin? Exactly! Same thing with Landry Fields, Jared Jeffries, etc. These guys had their best games during Linsanity. And during Linsanity, he made guys play better who he didn’t even practice with before hand. He did it seemingly out of thin air. Out of thin air, he created AMAZING chemistry. Chemistry that takes years for other teams to create. And since chemistry is the most important thing to a team, it would seem logical to conclude that a guy who’s able to create amazing chemistry with any group of guys should be considered the most valuable player on pretty much any team.
Of course, the big caveat is that that player needs to be played the right way. That player needs to be free to play his game. That player needs to be trusted to make mistakes. McHale has allowed none of these things for Lin and that’s why the Rockets haven’t performed up to the potential they have and Lin hasn’t performed up to his potential with the Rockets. Will McHale draw any lessons from these two losses to a couple of the worst teams in the NBA with his two trusted superstars? I doubt it. At least not when it comes to Lin.
Before, I saw some value in using Lin as a 6th man, but now, I only see it as a farce. At least in the way McHale uses Lin. There’s only ONE reason Lin is a sixth man and that’s simply because McHale wants to have the option of benching Lin without too much hell raising from Lin fans. I don’t have time to go into this, but I did post a video in which I talked about this in more detail, so you can go there if you’re interested. If McHale learns anything from these games, then he will put Lin back in the starting lineup where Lin belongs and run NUMEROUS PnRs with Lin and Howard. But I’ll get run over by a water buffalo in the shower before this ever happens. So, no. I don’t see McHale learning any lessons from these games without Lin.