By: mitchell felker
Two-for-Texas - An interesting note from last night's win over the Mavericks, via the Houston Rockets twitter page: For the first time since 1989 the Rockets beat the Spurs and Mavs on back-to-back nights.
The Rockets won in Dallas, with all five starters and seven of the eight players who got real minutes scoring in double figures. That kind of balance of production led to an interesting quote from Chandler Parsons, referring to playing without James Harden, who missed his second consecutive game with a sprained thumb.
"When he's out, we have a more balanced attack," Parsons said of Harden. "We run our sets and get the best shot available. When he's not there, we don't go one-on-one as much."
I'm still struggling with what exactly can be gleaned from a quote like this. It could just be a locker room leader crediting his teammates for the chemistry and teamwork they displayed in beating another tough opponent while missing their leading scorer. But then part of me thinks it might be a little more than that. It's clear that Parsons believes that staying within the offense produces the best looks for the team, and how many times on this site alone have we assessed Harden's hero-ball tactic?
I'm not implying any kind of controversy or infighting in the Rockets locker room by any means, and Parsons almost surely wouldn't have said it had Jose Calderon made one of those final 3-point attempts. But perhaps Parsons is hoping Harden will notice what the team has accomplished in his absence by simply using good old-fashioned teamwork. Rarely does Harden truly play off the ball, running off screens or cutting back door like most shooting guards, choosing rather to stay behind the 3-point line and wait for the ball to return to him. And some of this is by design under the Morey/McHale regime that favors floor spacing so much, but it's definitely something to think about.
I love James Harden as a Rocket and am as enamored with his game as anyone. But on a team with other playmakers such as Parsons, Dwight Howard and Jeremy Lin, maybe it wouldn't hurt to just be another link in the chain from time to time.
Eye of the Tiger - One of the most popular posts right now in the Red94 forum is one entitled "Need the Agressive...JLin". There are some pretty interesting stats provided by user Knickabokkaz that show how Jeremy Lin's aggressiveness correlates with Rockets success. Well, Coach Kevin McHale agrees.
“(Lin is) a naturally very aggressive player,” McHale said. “He needs to be aggressive. Jeremy plays his best when he’s attacking and when we have some pace in the game it really helps him.”
After the last section, I feel like I should specify that James Harden is the Rockets' best offensive player and should get more touches than anyone else on the team. And playing with a teammate like Harden would cut into anyone's aggressiveness when that aggression can only truly be realized with the ball in their hands. Many point guards would struggle playing next to Harden (or vice-versa if that point guard is Russell Westbrook), and its the main reason Harden came off the bench for so many years with the Oklahoma City Thunder. And it is the exact reason why Jeremy Lin should come off the bench for this Rockets team. Lin is best with the ball in his hands, and that can only really happen when he's playing with the Rocket's role players.
According to NBAwowy, Lin improves across the board when he plays in lineups sans Harden, albeit only by a little. But in games that Harden has missed completely, Lin has averaged 20.5 ppg and 6 apg, while shooting 51% FG, 47% 3pt and 6.8 FTA as a starter in his absence. Those are Linsanity numbers, only more efficient. And they've happened because Lin knew his role going into those games without the Beard, and that role was attack off the dribble and do the things he does best.
That is why it's so hard to understand why so many Rockets fans are so eager to trade Jeremy Lin. Last year, he was playing out of role as a starter next to Harden. And this year, as the team realized Lin was better suited as the microwave sixth-man, injuries across the board have kept any player on the roster (save for Dwight Howard) from ever getting comfortable in their role. With a full bench and Patrick Beverley as the starter, Lin's minutes could be stacked so that anytime Harden comes off the floor he could be the trigger of the offense. And with the talent and shooting ability of the Rockets' backups, Lin would finally be able to realize his full potential by torching opposing benches without starting quality players like him to match.
I've said it multiple times in my short time writing this column, and I'll say it again: until health finds the Rockets and they finally have their full complement of players in their appropriate roles, this will not be a machine running the way it was intended. You just can't build a puzzle until you have all the pieces.
Rising Star - The NBA announced the players for the 2014 Rising Stars Challenge, and the Rockets' Terrence Jones was an obvious selection among the Association's sophomores.
Joining (Anthony) Davis and Lillard among sophomores selected to participate are the Golden State Warriors' Harrison Barnes, the Washington Wizards' Bradley Beal, the Detroit Pistons' Andre Drummond, the Houston Rockets' Terrence Jones, the Boston Celtics' Jared Sullinger, the Toronto Raptors' Jonas Valanciunas and the Cleveland Cavaliers' Dion Waiters.
Carter-Williams is joined in the player pool by fellow rookies Steven Adams of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Atlanta Hawks' Pero Antic, the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Utah Jazz's Trey Burke, the New York Knicks' Tim Hardaway, Jr., the Orlando Magic's Victor Oladipo, the Boston Celtics' Kelly Olynyk, and the Brooklyn Nets' Mason Plumlee.
The two teams will be chosen from the two classes for the third straight year next week on TNT. The GM's for the two squads have yet to be chosen, but it will be the fans who choose the starters for each team. Without knowing the squad Jones will end up on, I would think he'll end up a starter for whichever team he plays for. Surely whoever the league chooses to select the squads will see the obvious advantage of getting Jones alongside former Kentucky teammate Anthony Davis, who will almost certainly be among the top two picks with Lillard.