Lin’s spark can light Rockets’ fire

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com


VIDEO: Jeremy Lin talks about his play after Houston’s win over Portland

The Rockets look powerful when Dwight Howard is making his presence felt in the low post, grabbing rebounds for put-backs, spinning in the lane to drop in those jump hooks he’s honing in during workouts with Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon.

The Rockets look like a tough nut to crack when James Harden is weaving like a wild-eyed taxi driver through traffic in the lane to finish for improbable layups and stepping back to stab in his long 3-pointers with ease.

But the Rockets become positively confounding to defenders when Jeremy Lin is doing all of the things he can do. Which is why Lin’s recent emergence from a slump is worth noting.

“We need Jeremy,” said coach Kevin McHale. “He just makes a lot of things happen and when he is rolling it just gives us more versatility to do different things.”

While there will never be a return to the “Linsanity” days in New York, that ability to strike inside and out, create for his teammates, get all the way to the rim and hit a critical shot from the outside is what can elevate Houston to being the most difficult offense to stop in the Western Conference.

The Rockets don’t need him to be the big hammer in their attack as much as a bowling ball that strikes and send pins scattering.

When the Rockets trailed the Trail Blazers midway through the fourth quarter on Sunday, Lin came back onto the floor as part of a small lineup that simply exploded. From the end of regulation through overtime, he scored 18 points, dropped in a trio of treys, grabbed a rebound and made a steal. His final line: 26 points, three rebounds, two steals and an assist. It was his highest scoring game since Nov. 13 and, more important, it was the first time in weeks that he’d played pain-free.

Since the All-Star break, Lin had been bothered by a tightness in his back that did not keep him out of the lineup but did keep him from looking like himself. He was slow, tentative, unsure of each movement on the court and, as usual, it brought up the old debate on social media. One side says that he’s overrated and a fabrication of the hyperventilating media while the other side says he’s underused and under-appreciated by McHale.

The latter, of course, is patently untrue since nobody benefits more from an effective Lin than McHale, who in three seasons with the Rockets has shown himself to be nothing if not adaptable.

It certainly helped that the Rockets went 8-2 coming out of the All-Star break and charged to a spot near the top of the conference standings. But in the first eight games, Lin struggled badly, shooting just 29 percent (16-for-55) and averaged only 6.3 points and 2.6 turnovers.

In their past three games, Lin has shot 14-for-28, averaging 15 points and 2.0 assists.

“If you ask me if it feels good to be back, yes,” Lin said. “It feels good.”

It didn’t help combat Lin’s critics that during his struggles he never missed a game. However, it probably also doesn’t help that Lin can sometimes be his own most difficult impediment. Perhaps it’s a product of being one of those deep thinkers from Harvard, but Lin can occasionally tie himself into mental knots. When he is at his best, Lin is instinctive, unpredictable, like a spark that can ignite a wildfire. When he hits a rough spot, it tends to linger and you can almost see the wheels turning inside his head as he tries to figure out what’s gone wrong.

The difference is striking.

“Without Jeremy Lin, we don’t win that (Portland) game,” said teammate Chandler Parsons. “He has been struggling lately, but we believed in him. He has been great all year long. Everyone goes through rough patches.”

Not everyone has to live up to a two-week fantasy from two years ago that instantly made them a cult figure all around the world.

“I tell him to just relax and play basketball, be the player that he can be,” McHale said. “We don’t need Linsanity.”

But the return of Jeremy Lin’s spark and unpredictability to go with the foundation of Harden and Howard would make the Rockets a very tough out in the playoffs.

13 Comments

  1. JLIN7 says:

    Linsanity was the best basketball I have even seen in my life time since MK-23. Let’s face it, there is tremendous discrimination and stereotype going on in NBA. When an Asian kid makes a mistake, it will be magnified and punished. McHale might not intentionally suppress Lin, but he can’t deny that he does not believe in Lin, the Asian kid. RIP, LINSANITY…

    • howdy doody says:

      clearly, you missed jlin go off on the bulls last night!! who cares that rox got pummelled in the worst way??! unfortunately, you & mcfail don’t understand that LINSANITY is alive & well, my friend.

  2. Frankie says:

    Lin’s explosion in New York did make McHale lose face deeply. So he hates using Lin, eventhough his mouth tells people he is not biased. His strategy is to suppress Lin, intentionally or otherwise, even at the expense of losing the game. Can anybody explain why Lin was benched within the last 10 mins in the game with OKC, eventhough Lin was the only key Rockets player with a non negative +/-. The only reason is becasue he didn’t want Lin to be a hero again to save Rockets. He stubbornly thought his coaching with the rest of the team could still have a chance to win without Lin. If he were not biased, I do suspect Mchale has some sort of dementia. He looked not knowing what he was doing when he was worn out on losing game each time. A good coach should encourage his improving player, not like what McHale doing against Lin to extinguish him, again intentionally or otherwise.

  3. Side line observer says:

    Lin’s explosion in New York did make MaHale lose face deeply. So he hates using Lin, even his mouth tells people he is not biased. His strategy is to suppress Lin intentionally or otherwise, even at the expense of losing a game, like on Tuesday evening when Lin was the only key Rocket player with a non negative +/-. Can anybody explain why he still benched Lin in the last 10 mins. I would say it’s simply because he didn’t want Lin to have a chance to be a hero again to save Rockets, as he believed stubbornly he could coach the Rockets to win even without Lin.

  4. JoshuaS says:

    Not sure what Lin is going through, but the guy who took his spot is a lesser player, a lesser person, a person whose style of “play” would be bannable at the local Y’s, and a disgrace to the league. But I guess that’s what people in Texas like.

  5. okc2014 says:

    I’m not seeing how you call him “McFail”. Kevin McHale is an excellent coach and I think the Rockets will launch. Next year. But I do have to agree that it would be nice to see Linsanity again-yes, maybe even a starter with the Fakers. OOPS I forgot, Kobe will be back. My bad. LOL.

  6. Allen says:

    We all know that Lin is not an all star-caliber player like CP3 or Westbrook. But he does have skills and ability to be an excellent sixth man. He should be developed and utilized like Crawford at Clippers. In fact, his minutes were the lowest among players at few games. At some other games, his minutes were piled up because of garbage time. How could a new and young player improve his confidence and skill sets when he is so underused? Don’t forget, from being a one-two punch last year to 6th man, further down to 7th or 8th man this year, his mental is in a roller coaster ride. It is head-coach job to break his metal knots. McHale just wants to win a game now, but fails to prepare the team to a deeper playoff run when he needs more fire power,

  7. squala96 says:

    It might be more of a motivational issue than recovering from injury for Lin. How can he be inspired if, at the start of the season, he has been relegated to the bench as Beverley (questionably) takes his starting position. Why the Rockets landed Harden can be the same reason they might lose Jeremy. Never mind Asik’s issues on playing backup for Dwight (because Omer only ever got to start because his size is rare); Linsanity needs to be revived especially now that Houston is beginning to be a serious contender in the West.

  8. Devin says:

    Lakers will fire D’Antoni by season end. Nope. Linsanity will not go to LA. No telling whether Lin would have made a diff in last night’s vs OKC but if I were Coach, I would’ve tried everything, even after his stupid foul on Westbrook. Lin has been known to go crazy at games’ end.

  9. howdy doody says:

    yes, mcfail, you do need linsanity. that’s what you get for going with Bev in the whole 4th qtr against okc last night.. a ridiculous foul on westbrook at the 3 and, ultimately, another loss without lin

    • howdy doody says:

      and, no, i can’t wait for jlin to go to lakers next season then watch him go off on hou. if mcfail doesn’t know what to do with linsanity, i can guarantee you dantoni does

  10. steppx says:

    Fran, you ever get tired of writing about the rockets? There are, other teams in the league….no, really.