Houston Rockets Hand Pelicans Heartbreaking Loss

The Pelicans game is the first complete game I’ve seen of the Rockets since probably the Spurs game on Christmas day! I wanted to see if McHale’s handling of Lin has changed at all. And I was disappointed, but not surprised to see that it hasn’t.

While watching the game, I experienced the same frustrations that caused me to take a break from watching Rockets games. So I ended up doing a hundred other things, while I had the game on so the time wouldn’t go to waste. What irritated me the most is that McHale has this play that he runs continuously where Lin just coughs up the ball to Parsons or some other player as soon as he crosses the half court, then disappears to the corner. I think the idea behind this is to keep the ball moving and also to feed Howard in the post. It’s fine if Rockets do this every now and then, but they do it over and over and over and over and it annoys the hell out of me. This is why I couldn’t pay too close attention to the game. It was hard to watch. So it looks like not much has changed. At this point, I just want Lin to be with another coach, but I have a feeling that Morey is going to wait until the summer to make trades. So I may have to suffer through this entire season and post-season with Lin not playing optimally.

In my write-up for the Celtics game I said that the identity of the Rockets should be centered around Howard with Lin as the floor general. I want to amend that somewhat. I think the identity of the Rockets should be centered around Howard, but it should be a mix of PnRs with Howard and Lin and Howard and Harden, as well as Howard Post Ups. But I think they should favor PnRs with Howard more than post ups. In last night’s game, they barely did any PnRs. In fact, I can’t recall any PnRs with Howard, but I’m sure they did a few that I missed. The Rockets kept running that silly play where Lin just coughs up the ball to Parsons the moment he crosses the half court and it was clearly not working. Yet, they ran it over and over. You would think that if something is not working, you might at least switch to doing PnRs just to see of that would work.

I think the reason why Rockets don’t do nearly enough PnRs is because Howard prefers posting up. The problem with Howard posting up is that it clogs up driving lanes, causing Lin to play passively. I keep saying this over and over, but the Rockets have three of the best PnR players in the league in Lin, Harden and Howard. It baffles the hell out of my mind why the Rockets don’t take advantage of this and run a ton of PnRs. That should be their bread and butter and it’s McHale’s duty to drill this into the team. I think Rockets would be unstoppable if they embrace this identity. But they go with McHale’s arbitrary move the ball “strategy”, where guys like Parsons or Jones end up handling the ball way more than they should. I’m all for ball movement and player movement, but I think you should at least give the guy who brings up the ball (i.e., your ball handler) a chance to make something happen, before he automatically coughs up the ball and disappears to the corner. In McHale’s offense, when Lin is playing the role of the Point Guard, Lin just becomes a glorified ball boy. He’s just the guy who does the necessary job of bringing the ball past the half court, since the ball can’t walk itself past the half court. That’s all Lin does in McHale’s offense. And then it’s only when Rockets can’t make anything happen that Lin jumps in and tries to make something happen with time running out. Either that or Lin gets to do his thing only in transition or when the defense isn’t set or a play is broken. This is why it has become too frustrating to watch Rockets games. In the Pelicans game, Harden had several plays where he would try to make something happen with time running out and at the very last second, he would dish it off to his teammates, because he doesn’t want to sacrifice his field goal percentage or whatever. He did this to Lin twice in last night’s game and he did it to other players, as well, like Jones. The Pelicans announcers (who I enjoyed listening to, because they weren’t homers) even pointed this out.

Anyway, the Pelicans should have won last night’s game. They played well and were in control of the game. So that was a heartbreaking loss for the Pelicans. It looked like they were going to win the game, up until the last couple of minutes or so. One good thing that happened is that during crunch time, Rockets didn’t play Harden Hero Ball. In the last significant play, Lin actually dribbled the ball at the top of the key and Harden set a PnR for Lin causing a mismatch for Harden who managed to get good spacing for a good shot over a smaller Rivers. I can’t give too much credit for McHale, though, because if I recall this play was set up off of a Houston Rockets offensive rebound. So it wasn’t a play that McHale ran out of a timeout. I think Jones or someone got the offensive rebound and passed it out to Lin. So it was more of a spontaneous play.

I most likely won’t be able to catch the OKC game. But for those who will be able to watch it, I’d be curious to see if Lin gets to actually handle the ball or is he just a glorified ball boy.

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  • MrPingPong

    Thank you, Philosopher, for your post game analysis.

    Yeah, it gets frustrating if not boring to watch the Rockets these days, with Lin as a “glorified ball boy” as you put it. Paradoxically, I can’t wait for Bev to come back to take the starting job and Lin to come off the bench and do the 6th man thing. The Rox are not going far either way whether Lin starts or comes off the bench, because of the way he is being utilized. Sigh…

    Anyway, it’s a “schedule loss” for the Rockets tonight against OKC. I get it. But as a delusional LOF, I’m calling a “schedule upset” tonight. McHale will just have to let Lin do his thing all night long, no matter how bad things may look at times! 🙂

    Letz GO, JL7!

    🙂

    • You’re welcome, MrPingPong. Yeah, we’ll see what happens once Bev returns. Perhaps Lin is better off coming off the bench. We’ll see. The problem is, McHale also doesn’t utilize Lin properly off the bench. Enjoy the game tonight. I’ll try and catch it.

      • MrPingPong

        OK, I’ll be at the game tonight. I do not get a good seat this time because I don’t want to pay too much just to watch Lin doing the glorifying ball boy thing.

        Anyway, I’ll post some videos later.

        Have fun everybody!

  • ashley

    I’m not sure if Lin coughs up the ball because he’s told to or because he wants to. Lots of times it seems to me that he passes the ball too much and avoid shooting ’cause he’s not very confident. On the other hand, Jones is quite aggressive, which contributes to his good stats this season.

    • Astute observation, Ashley. Here’s what I think is happening. McHale’s general and often used strategy is for the guy bringing up the ball to immediately pass the ball to the guy at the “elbow” (for lack of a better term) position on the floor, which is usually Parsons or some other forward or shooting guard. The idea behind this is to keep the ball moving and to provide a better angle to pass to Howard in the low post.

      What’s happened is that in preseason and in the beginning of the season, Lin just played loose and free, since he had a whole summer off from McHale’s brainwashing. So Lin just played the way he knows how to play. But as the season wore on, Lin feels less and less confident to just play his game and so he just does the glorified ball boy thing, because he’s afraid of messing up. So part of it is because that’s what McHale wants Lin to do, but part if it is because Lin doesn’t feel confident enough to go against this, because he’s afraid he’ll mess up. I don’t think McHale wants Lin to do the glorified ball boy thing EVERY time and not nearly as much as Lin does on his own. And I think McHale would be fine with Lin being more aggressive, but Lin’s been beaten to submission enough now that the glorified ball boy thing has become an automatic reflex for Lin. Lin won’t attack the basket unless he’s feels very strongly that he can do so without turning the ball over (i.e., during broken plays) or as a last resort when his teammates can’t get anything else going.

      The bottom line is, Lin is playing not to loose. Not playing to win. This is what concerns me the most about Lin staying with McHale. The longer he stays with McHale, the more he will get use to playing scared. It’s not so much a lack of confidence, it’s the fear of messing up that’s holding Lin back and causing him to pass up on shots and not play aggressively. And this is because of McHale’s treatment of him, as well as all other players not on his trusted list of players. But Lin also deserves some of the blame, because he’s let it happen. He’s let McHale get to him and become more passive than what even McHale wants out of him.

      This is in contrast to Brooks who just goes out there and does whatever the hell he wants, because he figures that no matter what happens, he’ll still be the third string Point Guard on the team. So Brooks has nothing to lose.

    • The other reason Lin just does the glorified ball boy thing is that he doesn’t get any PnRs and Howard is often camped out in the post, clogging up driving lanes. Lin also hasn’t practiced all season with Howard and company, so he doesn’t have a flow with Howard and company. The combination of all of these things makes the glorified ball boy option most appealing to Lin. Because the likelihood of him turning the ball over when he tries to attack without screens and with the driving lane congested is very high. The main issue is that Lin is not a consideration in any of the Rockets plays. So this is why he only comes into play as a last resort or when a play is broken and why he passes up on a lot of shots, because those shots he gets aren’t really meant for him to take.

      • ashley

        Mr. Philosopher, thanks for your well-rounded explanation. I think Lin himself should know the best and try to find a balance. He used to say he should stay aggressive, and that’s the Lin we’d like to see.

      • Forthelin

        Some nice insights I hadn’t considered. Another thought I had was that McHale doesn’t seem to think that there is much of a dropoff from Lin to Beverly or Brooks, so he will more quickly make a pg substitution when Lin isn’t playing well. For McHale, there is a considerable drop for the other starters, except maybe for Dwight, if Asik were playing(though Casspi has been a surprisingly good back-up for Parsons), so he tends to keep them in even if they are playing poorly, especially Harden. McHale also simply is not high on PG play, so that position is somewhat marginalized in his offense, although it is a little ironic that run and gun offenses tend to be triggered by pgs.

  • MrPingPong

    OK folks, here is the first quarter of the OKC game. The second half, as you all know by now, is a complete disaster. The only positive I could get out of the game was that I witnessed NBA history: the worst ever point differential between the first half and the second half by an NBA team.

    http://youtu.be/jv0VrqmSKyk

    More to come later.

    • Thanks for the video, MrPingPong. I actually did end up getting to see the OKC game and I did witness history. It was quite something!

      • MrPingPong

        Hey, I witnessed it live, up close and personal!
        🙂

  • MrPingPong

    Here’s the record breaking second quarter of the OKC game!

    http://youtu.be/ni8q9Hg6JYI

    At half time, I was thinking, ‘Lin is gonna come alive in the second half and put the Thunder away…’ 🙂

  • MrPingPong

    3rd quarter action vs OKC… The beginning of a disastrous end….

    http://youtu.be/9g50j6orCoc

    Just watch it again to see if you can make any sense out of it…

  • MrPingPong

    OK folks, in case you want to re-watch the 4th quarter of the OKC game…

    http://youtu.be/e1cdvziIN9o

    Lin was put back into the game with about less than 5 min to play…. Sigh… From my LOF-centric view, until the day Lin is trusted by his team in his ability to run the floor, the Rockets will not make it deep into the playoffs.

  • pistolpete

    Lincredible. Rockets were on a 3 game win streak with Jeremy playing close to 40 minutes a game. So what do they do – play him 24 minutes. I’m with the philosopher though – Jeremy’s role is so diminished it’s hard to watch the game. I have league pass so I’ll probably just record the games and if it looks like he did something I’ll watch it later. It’s too depressing to watch. Also when Beverley comes back his minutes will probably go down to the mid 20’s and less if the team is doing well. Please Morey TRADE HIM!

    • MrPingPong

      Hey Pistol, you will miss all the “fun” by not watching the Rockets live! 🙂 I agree with you that Lin’s minutes will drop when Bev comes back and takes over the starting spot.

      I don’t have the time nor the desire to crunch some numbers, but at first glance, it seems like McHale is riding Harden and Parsons like “freaking Secretariat”. Howard, if he does not get into foul trouble, plays heavy minutes as well. Next comes TJ. McHale plays Lin because he has no choice as of late. He will try at every chance to make sure that Lin is the 6th man, not 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th nor 5th, but simply 6th.

      I’m hoping that this will turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Lin because it will reduce the chance of Lin getting injured. I’m rooting for Lin to stay healthy and get to participate fully in the playoffs.

      As to trading Lin away, to which team? In spite of all this jerking around by McHale and Co, I believe Lin will survive and become an even better player. IMO, it’s better for Lin to finish his contract with the Rockets and then go FA, at which time, he can pick and chose the team that is best for him. In the mean time, LOF’s like myself will have to “suffer”! 🙂

      Have a great afternoon/evening/night/morning wherever you are on this WEB!

      PS: It’s game day today! Letz GO JL7! Beat the Bucks!

  • dr.b

    i believe Sampson is the problem for lin…although mchale can override him/////check out the Houston coaching staff resumes…not a d1 staff

  • pistolpete

    Realistically Mr. PingPong what will probably happen is that the Rockets will lose in the first round of the playoffs and McHale & Sampson will be fired. Then hopefully they will bring in a strong coach who will turn the “me” players into “we” players and Jeremy will shine. Amazing that McHale just this morning in an interview was talking about “me” and “we” players and he’s in love with two of the biggest “me” players in the league – Harden and Parsons. I like Dwight but he’s also too much in love with his low post game when doing more PnR would be more beneficial to the team.
    It’s doubtful that any team would trade for Jeremy right now seeing as how he will earn 15 mill next year and his stats right now don’t justify that salary in most GM’s minds. However if he did get traded the situation could not be worse than it is now and he would still be a FA in 2016. He would probably be able to put up better stats somewhere else and thus command a higher salary than he would playing “glorified ball boy” for another 18 months.
    So even though it would be beneficial to him, it’s very unlikely that Jeremy will be traded before Feb. 20. However there is a high probability that he will have a new coach in 2014. This can only be an improvement as any coach with half a brain will utilize his talents and help the team to maximize their potential. With the right coach I believe they have the talent to go far in the 2015 playoffs!

    • MrPingPong

      I agree with you, Pistol, that realistically Lin is not gonna be traded this season nor next season considering his current stats and the poison pill. It’s not a good thing for Lin to be traded anyway, because he will have to expend unnecessary time and effort to adapt to a new team. The role for Lin on the Rockets is pretty much set: come off the bench and help the second unit generate some offense! Lin seems to have accepted this role.

      Rockets fans and pundits are eagerly awaiting the return of Bev to revitalize Rockets defense. They all seem to accept the fact that Harden does not want to play defense and are willing to accept that just because he can score. Bev, as good a defender as he is perceived to be, will simply not be able to cover for Harden’s laziness. Bev will run out of gas just like Lin trying to cover multiple spots on the defensive end.

      As to McHale, I think Morey, being an MIT guy, is infatuated with McHale, a Boston Celtics HOF, and will try to keep him as long as he can.

      Anyway, just making conversation here… Have a great morning/afternoon/evening everybody, wherever you are on the WEB!

    • Great assessment, pistolpete!

  • pistolpete

    AND if they go far in the 2015 playoffs under a new coach it will have a lot to do with JLin’s leadership on and off the court. This will be recognized by other teams and Jeremy will reap the benefits when he becomes a Free Agent!! For his fans being able to watch him and his team play good, unselfish basketball will be reward enough.

  • Lau ming

    Lol its kinda funny how some of you think that Lin is some kind of superstar that a team should build around.

    • dr.b

      lin has all all the physica lpotential to be a nash or Stockton….only bigger and faster….not to say it will happen…..who thought those guys would be hof players…yeah lets wait for bev[who I really like]to make everthing better…..McHale just by the minutes he plays these guys ,shows he’s not here for the long run……parsons although a fine young player is not paul g,or Durant…he’s burning him out.i had the privelage to have season tickets for the bird and McHale Celtics….he was always considered the least likely to coach….maybe he wasn’t smart with his money…..again I dare any of u to check out the coaching staff,,,its a joke…check resumes..not one adult with serious nba experience….when bird coached he has dick harter…etc….other grab pete carrill……mchales staff is not d1 caliber,,,i think the knicks would take him back because of there battle for the city with Brooklyn…..but there is the melo factor,,another dope with amamzing talent….lately harden is throwing the ball to lin…..the only thing that makes me happy is that he got his money….so he is taken care of

      • MrPingPong

        I am with you, dr. b! Unlike some Melo and Smith, I am happy that Lin is well taken care of financially. Happy thoughts make my day that much better! 🙂

    • Most of us here are complaining because Lin isn’t played the way he’s supposed to be played. There’s a lot of middle ground between being a “glorified ball boy” and being some superstar that a team should build around. Most of us here are just looking for that middle ground.

      I don’t think there’s much argument, if you understand Lin’s game, that McHale and Co has been adversely misusing Lin. We’re just asking the coaching staff to utilize Lin the way he’s supposed to be utilized. Not asking a team to build around him.

  • pistolpete

    LOL oh you mean like Carmelo?

  • MrPingPong

    Hello Lin fans/non-fans,

    In case you haven’t read it, here is the latest article from Chris Baldwin:

    http://houston.culturemap.com/news/sports/01-20-14-jeremy-lin-benching-reaches-new-insanity-kevin-mchale-dooming-houston-rockets-playoff-chances/

    Back to the recent Bucks game… I missed most of the first half but was able to watch the full second half. IMO, even though the Rox won with TJ putting on a monster show (KUDO to TJ), I don’t think the Rox played well as a team. Lost in the euphoria of TJ’s career night, are rather disturbingly bad keys stats against the worst team in the NBA.

    Rox FGM-A: 41-85 = 48.2% vs Bucks FGM-A: 40-80 = 50%
    Rox 3PM-A : 7-27 = 25.9% vs Bucks 3PM-A : 11-23 = 47.8%
    Rox FTM-A: 25-37 = 67.6% vs Bucks FTM-A : 13-21 = 61.9%

    The Rox seemed to be coasting at times and unfocused. This is unlike the Spurs who basically were all business and wiped out the Bucks last night with the score of 110-82.

    Well, the Blazers are in H-town tonight. I dunno what y’all think but these guys are for real. McHale will start Bev tonight after his Wolverine like speedy recovery from a broken finger. I like Bev, but… 🙂

    Have a great day/afternoon/evening/night wherever you are on this WEB!

    • Thanks for the link, MrPingPong! I wrote a comment to Chris’s article.

      I skipped the Bucks game, but those are, indeed, some interesting stats you point out. It’s really hard for me to cheer for the Rockets these days. My approach now is that the more they mistreat Lin the more I want them to fail. I’m not proud of that, but that’s just the way I feel about the whole situation. I don’t have much love for the team anymore. In only just care about Lin doing well these days.

      It’s very disturbing and irritates the hell out of me that after all the evidence, it seems McHale has completely blinded himself from learning anything about whether or not it’s better for the Rockets to have Bev or Lin as a starter. Clearly, Beverley is not a starter, but McHale loves to put Lin back in Lin’s “place” any chance he gets and humiliate Lin by continuing to play up this farce that Beverley is THE starting point guard and Lin is Beverley’s backup. McHale wasn’t even open to learning a damn thing while Beverley was injured. McHale is too afraid to even give any hint that Beverley is not a starting point guard that he would automatically start him immediately after coming back from injury. The right thing to do, even if he wanted to start Beverley in the future, is to ease Beverley back into the starting lineup. Even if McHale thinks Beverley is a starter, Beverley is NOT ANYWHERE AT THE LEVEL where he should automatically be inserted back into the starting lineup after an injury. The fact that he will be shows McHale’s trepidation of being questioned about his ill-advised decision to start Beverley in the first place.

      Blazers are definitely for real!

      • MrPingPong

        I gave you an up arrow for each of the comments you made on Baldwin’s article, Philosopher! 🙂

        I go to the Rox games these days with the intention to video tape them and post them on Youtbube for Lin fans/non-fans from all over the world to see, in case they don’t have access to these games. I must say that it has not been fun as of late. Sigh…

        • Thanks for voting up my comments, MrPingPong! Yeah, watching Rockets game hasn’t been fun, lately.

  • Pistolpete

    My question to McHale is: If the team plays better with Beverley starting then why does the team have a better record with Lin starting ?

    (Also Lin only starts when Bev can’t play. Guess this means the team is better off without Bev.)

    • McHale is so biased against Lin it’s unconscionable! Very very disturbing.