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The Rockets Daily – April 1, 2014

No Knife - Patrick Beverley was right when he said he would play again this season.  Dr. James Andrews – usually a death sentence in situations like these – verified that Beverley would not need surgery to continue playing the rest of the season.  It’s not totally clear if he will need any kind of procedure after the season or if simply wearing a protective brace will allow the injury to heal on its own.

Beverley will still need another week or two of rest before he can resume playing, so Isaiah Canaan will continue to play in his stead.  James Harden sounds comfortable with the rookie logging minutes for a title-contender, and there was some chatter in the forums that fans would even prefer to see Canaan start over the ever-embattled Jeremy Lin.  While Canaan showed some promise and definitely has the talent to be a player in this league, he played reckless and out of control for stretches of the Clippers game.  Turning him loose in a playoff series against Russell Westbrook or Tony Parker and Greg Poppovich would be like waving bar-b-que in front of a hungry wolf.  Point guard is the deepest position in the NBA right now – especially in the West – and it wouldn’t take long for opposing coaches to figure out how to exploit a player with such little experience and capitalize on him.

As for Lin, he didn’t play well in the Clippers game and that’s been the cause of much of the Canaan-chatter.  Lin has been remarkably inconsistent since the All-Star break and “confidence” is usually the key word used when describing what’s ailing him.  I never really bought into that theory but you could really see it in his game on Saturday night.  Multiple times Lin would beat his man, get into the lane and leave his feet, only to turn his back to the rim and look to pass with no intent on trying to score.  Maybe that was DeAndre Jordan’s doing or maybe he was just trying to stick to the Rockets’ credo of slash-and-kick.  But whatever the case, Lin’s best asset is his scoring and when he doesn’t get buckets he just doesn’t add much to the team. 

Back in the Linsanity days, Lin’s primary role for the Knicks (who were playing without Melo for most of that run) was to attack the defense and score the ball.  We all know what happened when he was paired with James Harden and the Houston Rockets that following summer and that’s where his crisis of confidence started.  It was only compounded when he lost his starting job to Patrick Beverley before this season and I think that’s what’s wrong with Lin now.

Playing with Harden, Lin appears to feel the need to be a true point guard.  But the fact is, that’s just not who he is or why he was signed in the first place.  Lin is a scoring-guard that plays the point, and that’s why I was such a proponent of him being the sixth-man.  Presumably, with the second unit (and without Harden) Lin would be left to do what he does best and attack the rim.  But he seems to be stuck between the two roles; his natural inclination is to drive to the basket, but after doing so he stops trying to score and starts looking for teammates once it’s too late.

When the Rockets are sans Harden, Lin knows he has to be the perimeter scorer.  For proof of how good he can be when he is comfortable in his role, you only need to look at the six games that James Harden has missed that Lin started in his place.  In those contests the Rockets were 4-2 despite missing their best player thanks in large part to Lin, who averaged 20.5 ppg, 5.8 apg, 4.3 rpb and shot 51%FG and 47%3pt, not to mention he got to the line over six times a game and shot 84% from the stripe.  I don’t know why this doesn’t translate to his sixth-man role, but he has to figure out how to assert himself whenever he’s in the game.

Patrick Beverley won the starting job because he is a better defender, not because he’s a better point guard.  Lin just needs to remember what got him paid and play ball with his instincts, no matter who else is on the court.  Confidence is a fickle thing and maybe Lin won’t ever find it coming off the bench, but he is Houston’s best bet for pushing the Rockets to the next level, not a rookie.

*On a side note, how great was Bill Worrell’s “Canaan-Ball” call on the rook’s first made three?  I bet he’d been sitting on that one since draft night.  He’s the best.

Power Rankings – Marc Stein’s newest power rankings have the Rockets flipping spots with the Miami Heat, falling to number five.

As hard as the Rockets tried to find a palatable Omer Asik trade, going back to December, they were always torn about the idea. And now the Rockets have to be glad Asik bidders were turned off by Houston’s high demands because Dwight Howard is still out. So they need their insurance policy.

Asik is the ultimate insurance policy, but what I thought was even more enlightening was a comment in Stein’s blog post introducing the newest batch of rankings.

A weekend of missed opportunities for the Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns helped keep the Rockets in the top five and prevented Indy from dropping out of the top six.

All three teams threatening to push the Portland Trail Blazers further down in the standings had rough weekends and put a little more distance between them and the 5-seed.  I made a comment in the Shoutbox while watching Memphis v. Portland that it was weird rooting for the Blazers after cursing them for so much of the season.  But if they can hold off the scarier Warriors, Grizzlies and the long-time Rockets-killing Mavericks, Houston would have the most fragile first-round opponent not in the East.  While the Spurs are busy trying to score with Dirk or banging with Grit-and-Grind, Houston would be gifted Rockets-lite; a Blazers team that can score like the Rockets but who shouldn’t have the talent to keep up in a seven-game series.  Go Blazers! (but only until April 13).

Getting Bored - In an interview with Dan Le Batard on his radio show, Daryl Morey gave a little insight that he might be losing interest in running a basketball team.

When I was going through school, and even coming up with the Celtics, I never saw this as a long-term gig.  It was a hobby and certainly a challenge, but I always wanted more.  I wanted to look at real world problems and see if I could solve them.  And now I see what Nate Silver is doing with Five Thirty Eight and I can’t help but think, ‘Hey, that could be me’.  But the fact of the matter is, I have two years left on my deal with the Rockets and I’ll probably get them checks before I make any decisions.  I really, really want to win a title and rub it in Mark Cuban’s stupid, smug face…call Sam Presti and tell him thanks for gift-wrapping the Beard like he’s Billy King or something.  Then maybe I’ll solve the energy crisis or whatever is going on with Miley Cyrus.  Who knows.

The entire transcript can be read here, and is really worth a look.  I’m just too grief-stricken to comment further.  Have a great Tuesday, everyone.

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