HOUSTON — While social media buzzed and fans on both sides of the Pacific debated and fretted all through the preseason about which player would be named to the Rockets’ starting lineup, all coach Kevin McHale kept saying was he was just happy to have two point guards quite capable of doing the job.
Now he’s relieved.
Season opener starter Patrick Beverley will be sidelined for 10 to 14 days with a partially torn muscle in his midsection that occurred in the first half of Wednesday night’s win over the Bobcats.
Beverley’s injury means Jeremy Lin returns to the starting lineup and moves veteran Aaron Brooks up to first man off the bench.
Beverley said at Friday’s shootaround that he and the team were taking a cautious approach and that he’d be in the lineup if this were the playoffs and not simply the second game of the regular season against the Mavericks.
Lin scored 16 points in 31 minutes off the bench in the opener even though he was banged up himself and was forced to leave the game briefly to have three stitches put in his chin.
“Obviously, it’s unfortunate and we need Pat,” Lin said. “We need Pat to play at a high level if we want to be the team we want to be.
“Same mindset, just going to keep playing hard. At the end of the day, he’s going to play, I’m going to play. It’s still about how you play when you’re out there.”
While the Beverley-Lin competition for the starting job caused considerable debate among fans through training camp and the preseason schedule, it was hardly a contentious issue within the team or the Rockets organization.
The belief is still that Beverley’s more aggressive and physical style of play allows the Rockets to set a better defensive tone at the start of games and then Lin can more readily take advantage with his free-styling offense with the second unit. But Lin did start all 82 games last season and was sharp against Charlotte, hitting five of seven shots from the field, including 2-for-2 on 3-pointers.
All of the back-and-forth is merely fodder that keeps embers of social media glowing at a time when there is no real fire of debate. The truth is that when they’re healthy, Beverley and Lin can make an effective tandem for the Rockets at the point that gets the most out of both of their talents.
“Things change so fast,” Lin told the Houston Chronicle. “Just keep playing, stay focused on what you’re doing, what you’re supposed to do. For me, we were communicating throughout the whole process. They explained to me what made more sense. At the end of the day, we’re all going to play. I’m going to play, he’s going to play. As long as we play well when we’re out there on the floor, I think our team has a high chance of winning.”