Jeremy Lin, during happier times (Getty Images)
In point guard prospect Jeremy Lin, the Houston Rockets know they have a long-term project. Lin has been shot to the NBA via the iffy basketball competition at Harvard, kept on the bench or away from the league due to stints on the pine or in the D-League, tossed into Linsanity, and pressed into service while recovering from injury with a ball dominating guard in James Harden that he didn’t get to share a training camp with following an October surprise of a trade. Lin has really never had a normal NBA season to work with, which is why you would think the Rockets would try to keep things as orthodox as possible heading into 2013-14.
Nah. It’s time to win now, now means “October,” and Lin appears to be coming off the bench for the team’s opener against Charlotte on Wednesday, even if coach Kevin McHale hasn’t outright confirmed it. From CSN Houston’s Adam Wexler:
"Yes," McHale said when asked if he had a starting five set for Wednesday night. That was followed by a question asking if he’d tell the media who that is. “No,” McHale answered.
"Chandler Parsons was asked if the players had been told who the starters would be and he sounded almost surprised that McHale had not shared that with the media.
""I don’t know why it’s a big surprise," Parsons said. “It’s the same as how the preseason ended.”
"That means Patrick Beverley will not only make his first opening night roster, he'll be making his first opening night start.
"“I haven’t had the fortune to play in the NBA on opening night,” Beverley said. “It’s going to be my first. I’m definitely excited.”
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Lin and Beverley both started three games during the postseason, and with their minutes both at around 24 a contest, Lin outpaced Beverley in both points (11.2 to 9.1) and assists (4.5 to 3.4), though Patrick shot better from the field and from long range, hitting half of his attempts from both spots. Beverley is by far the superior defender, while coach McHale probably considers Lin’s scoring instincts a better fit for the second unit.
That’s fair, especially with Harden again dominating the ball (as he should), and new big man Dwight Howard in place at center. Coming off the pine to run an approximated version of Linsanity might be the best role for Lin.
Still, the whole point of signing Jeremy was to take advantage of his significant upside. Lin has potential that far exceeds the production that he’s given the Rockets thus far, especially as his jump shot rounds into form, and he develops more confidence in his distribution game. Demoting him to a gig as a role player – a ball-dominator off the bench – seems like an impatient move. Penny-wise, pound-foolish, all of that.
Beverley is a fine guard and, in a lot of ways, deserving of the starting spot. The Rockets, though, have a chance to do something unorthodox that could pay off quite well sometime down the line. After all, this is the team that is likely to start (as Wexler points out) Howard and fellow center Omer Asik in the starting lineup against Charlotte. The team, led by general manager Daryl Morey, is not risk-averse.
So why go the orthodox route now?
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It’s early. It’s Charlotte. It won’t matter much come spring. Those are all reasons to not hand-wring over Lin’s demotion.
Those are also reasons to keep with the experiment of Jeremy Lin as your starting point guard right now. Teach the guy to fish, take your lumps as you all learn, and see how it pays off.
Houston? This is why you schedule games in October against the Charlotte Bobcats.
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