I’m not such a big fan of the All-Star festivities. I was when I was a kid, but it’s meaningless to me now. The dunk contest is pretty cool still, but that’s about it. I think the actual All-Star game itself would be cool if the guys really tried hard, but they’re basically just goofing around, which is completely understandable. But not anything I care to watch, although I guess some of the fancy plays are fun to watch. I guess what makes it uninteresting for me is that there’s really nothing at stake. It would be different if it was about proving how good you are against the best, but the players don’t take it seriously, so it just becomes a goofing-off session.
What is good about the All-Star break is that it allows the players to recharge their batteries. And I think for Lin, it couldn’t have come at a better time. I think McHale’s frustration for Lin reached its height in the Clippers game (I hope it was the height), so it’s good to have this break to calm things down. Also, Lin got really banged up in the Clippers game, so it’s nice to have the break to recover.
From what I’ve gathered from some of the recent comments here, talk has picked up within the Linosphere about the McFale/Lin dynamics and I can understand why. So I thought I’d re-visit this topic some during this All-Star break.
It’s pretty clear to me that McHale is not a big fan of Lin and there are several reasons for this, in my subjective opinion (of course, since I can only guess what goes through McHale’s head). McHale is a very no nonsense-type of person. And you know what irritates no nonsense types the most? Hype. So I think he really gets annoyed by all the Lin hype. At first, when McHale would downplay all the Linsanity questions from interviewers, I thought he was trying to protect Lin from all the overblown expectations from the media for how Lin will do in Houston. And I still think that’s a part of it. But I’ve also come to realize that it’s because McHale is really annoyed with the media for continuing to talk about Linsanity. And I think this annoyances sometimes carries over to when interviewers ask him any questions about Lin–even if it has nothing to do with Linsanity. I think whatever attention that Lin gets from the media annoys McHale. This is why McHale doesn’t really mention Lin in his interviews unless he really feels the need to. For example, in McHale’s post game interview for the Warriors game (in Houston), a reporter asked McHale about Lin’s performance specifically and McHale flat out didn’t answer the question and went on to talk about the team and didn’t say anything about Lin. This is the game that Lin scored 28 points or so and had, perhaps, his best offensive game of the season! I thought that was pretty telling that McHale wouldn’t give Lin props. McHale just sees Lin as a player who was over-hyped in a big market. McHale is clearly a Lin Doubter, as I characterize in my post about Lin Haters and Doubters. So, no matter what Lin does, McHale will continue to see Lin through preconceptions that Doubters have about Lin. This is why McHale continues to not show much confidence in Lin and doesn’t give Lin the benefit of the doubt and continues to bench Lin for every little mistake. Although McHale’s benching of Lin had gotten better. As a Lin Doubter, it will take McHale a lot of time before he will give Lin respect and the benefit of the doubt.
A second major reason for McHale’s annoyance at Lin is that he was really pissed that the Rockets let Dragic walk, so Lin subconsciously reminds McHale of the fact that he no longer has Dragic–the point guard he really wanted. Instead, the owner and GM stuck him with this inexperienced, over-hyped marketing machine. This is not something McHale actually thinks, but it is something in the back of McHale’s mind that he can’t shake. If you want to go the conspiracy theory route, you would say that McHale is not putting Lin in positions to succeed so that he can prove to the GM and owner that Lin just doesn’t work in Houston and prompt them to bring back Dragic. I think that’s pretty far fetched, so I wouldn’t go there. But just thought I’d throw it out there for people who want to go there. It would kind of explain how McHale has misused Lin and how McHale’s management of Lin’s minutes is somewhat erratic. Although, I would say that McHale’s management of Patterson’s and Asik’s minutes is even more erratic. And, as of late, I’ve also seen McHale surprisingly bench Parsons in the fourth, which is something that would have been unthinkable earlier in the season. On a side note, one guy that I think McHale needs to stop relying on, until he gets his elbow back in shape is Delfino. Delfino’s been terrible, lately, and McHale continues to give Delfino the benefit of the doubt, because he loves veterans. McHale has a lot of confidence in Delfino’s game, even though Delfino is a turnover machine. McHale did finally bench Delfino in the Clippers game. I hope he starts favoring Anderson over Delfino–at least until Delfino is fully recovered from his injuries. I really like Anderson’s game. I think he deserves more minutes going forward. As long as I’m on this side note, how good was D-Mo in the Clippers game? He played exactly how I expected him to play, when given significant minutes. D-Mo is a potential star to me. He just needs to bulk up if he wants to play Power Forward in the NBA. But his offensive game is as impressive as I expected it to be. He’s got post up moves and he’s got range. He can also roll to the basket off of screens and he can catch the ball. I’ve always wanted to see Lin play with him, because I think he has the quickness and speed to get open and is always looking for the ball. It was nice to see a little of that in the Clippers game. I hope to see more of it.
Anyway, getting back to McHale and Lin. McHale basically sees Lin as a young player who still has a lot to learn. And this is basically the way McHale treats Lin. This is why McHale doesn’t give Lin the benefit of the doubt and won’t hesitate to bench Lin. McHale is also very hard on Lin, because McHale feels like Lin is new to the game and has a lot to learn. He doesn’t see Lin has having a high basketball IQ like most of us Lin fans. Because McHale is a doubter, he fixates on Lin’s flaws and overlooks some of Lin’s strengths. In an interview with Ultimate Rockets before the Warriors rematch, McHale revealed perhaps the most he’s ever about Lin. How McHale talks about Lin in this interview conveys some of these things that I’ve pointed out about his attitudes towards Lin:
“I think there is a misconception just because there is a movie about his life and everything else,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “He’s started less than 80 games. He is a rookie player in a lot of senses. Is he going to (be) up and down? Of course he’s going to be up and down. All young guys are. That’s the thing a lot of people forget. I think it’s frustrating for him at times, too. They expect him to be a finished product. He’s not. He’s learning the NBA game.
“He just happened to catch an unbelievable run in a major market, in New York, and it actually became a story that was bigger than he was. That’s hard. It’s a lot easier to go out and play this game when the expectation level for you is realistic, not Linsanity.”
McHale said he has seen signs of improvement in a variety of areas but did not hesitate to produce a list of ways in which he believes Lin needs to grow.
“Decision making, moving the ball, playing with the ball, cutting without the ball, playing without the ball,” McHale said. “He’s got a lot of room to grow. Defensively, just being disciplined. There’s a lot of stuff. But you know what? They are all the stuff I would tell you all the young guys are doing. There’s no difference. He’s a young guy.
“He’s very typical of a young player. All the things you would think (would happen) are happening.”
One of the things that bother me about how McHale treats Lin and how he talks about Lin is that he disregards everything Lin did during Linsanity. To McHale, it’s as if Lin has no relation to Linsanity. And McHale doesn’t really make a point of saying that Lin is being asked to play a new role for Houston and doesn’t give Lin credit for the fact that Lin is being asked to make a lot of adjustments to his game. Almost everything that comes out of McHale’s mouth is to criticize Lin and to talk about Lin as if Lin is a little kid that has so much to learn. Notice how in the above interview McHale didn’t hesitate to roll off a laundry list of things that Lin needs to improve on. There’s not an ounce of respect when he talks about Lin. He’s always talking down and treats Lin like every other young player–not giving Lin any credit for Lin’s Linsanity run. Like most doubters, McHale just dimisses Linsanity as some sort of a fluke that was overhyped by a big market team.
All this being said, I CAN understand McHale’s attitude towards Lin and I don’t necessarily think it’s all that detrimental towards Lin. The harder McHale is on Lin, the more Lin will learn. And Lin has the type of attitude that will allow him to learn and grow from criticisms. So I don’t think McHale’s criticisms hurt Lin for the most part. Although, I think McHale does go overboard and it does cause Lin to play on egg shells sometimes. I think that was definitely the case early in the season. But as Lin gained more confidence, it became less of an issue. I did see it come back again, however, during the Clippers game. I think McHale’s over-the-top reaction to Lin’s turnover late in the game really made Lin feel like he has to play on egg shells again. So that’s why I’m grateful for the All-Star break so Lin (and McHale) can leave it all behind him and play without worrying about making mistakes again.
What is MOST concerning about McHale as it relates to Lin is that McHale really doesn’t like point guards who dribble too much. I couldn’t figure out why McHale took Lin out so early in the Denver game, which I still feel is Lin’s best ball-handling game. But I realize now that what I saw as Lin’s incredible ball-handling skills, McHale saw as Lin over-dribbling. In that Denver game, Lin kept penetrating the lane on every possession and kept his dribble alive if he wasn’t successful on the first attempt to penetrate the lane and had the patience to wait for the play to develop. I thought that demonstrated mature Point Guard skills, but McHale doesn’t like his Point Guards to dribble too much. He prefers his Point Guards to just keep the ball moving, mostly by passing. He wants his Point Guard (and everyone on the team for that matter) to get rid of the ball quickly and keep it moving side-to-side and in-and-out. Now, I don’t have a problem with this philosophy. In fact, it’s one of the things that I do like about McHale’s coaching. He really emphasizes ball movement and player moment. I think that’s all great and I do think it helps Lin’s game to learn this skill to make quick decisions and move the ball. But I think McHale should allow Lin the freedom to hang onto the ball a little more than he would allow other players, because Lin is, after all, the floor general. I’d hate for Lin’s ball-handling to suffer because of a coach that would bench him every time he keeps his dribble alive by penetrating the lane and coming back out to reset and find another play. That would hurt Lin’s game as a Point Guard. I’m not saying Lin should hang onto the ball all the time or even of the time, I’m just saying that McHale needs to allow Lin the freedom to do it every now and then, because Lin has the skills to keep his dribble alive and wait for the right play to develop. I’d rather have my Point Guard hang onto the ball, even if the ball gets “sticky” at times, than for him to pass it to some other guy who then has to find the right play. But McHale has ABSOLUTELY no patience for this and I think that’s a HUGE mistake. He’d rather Lin immediately give up the ball right when Lin crosses the half court, just so the ball is moved than for Lin to hang onto the ball a little bit and see what play develops, before Lin gives up the ball. McHale just wants his Point Guard to either play downhill and attempt to score right away or immediately give up the ball. He has no patience for Lin to penetrate the defense and then keep his dribble alive and try and find the right play after an unsuccessful attempt to penetrate the defense. This is what concerns me most about McHale’s relationship with Lin, because I think it will hurt Lin’s development. So I’m fine with pretty much everything about the McFale/Lin dynamic, except this one. The way I see it, it’s only a matter of time until McHale gains more confidence in Lin and starts respecting Lin and Lin’s game. So I’m not that worried about how McHale treats Lin like a little kid now. It’s annoying, sure, but it’ll just take time. McHale’s intolerance for a Point Guard to hang onto the ball, on the other hand, is something that will never change. And so that’s why I’m most concerned about it. It’s just what McHale believes is the right way to play. And the thing is, McHale is very valid in feeling this way, because I also think it’s the right way to play. But where I differ from McHale is that I think a Point Guard should have some free reign to hang onto the ball in certain instances to wait for the play to develop. But McHale is absolute in his belief that the ball should NEVER be “sticky” and that’s where I think McHale is wrong and it’s where he’s really hurting Lin’s game.
So those are my thoughts about the McFale/Lin dynamics. I’m not sure if it’s what Lin fans are talking about int he linosphere. As for the Rockets, they’ve looked good ever since the January slump and they have a considerably easier schedule in March and April. I know it may sound like I’m just being a delusional fan, but I really do believe that the Rockets have a great chance of losing no more than 7 games the rest of the season. This puts them just short of the 50 wins mark and should give them either 5th or 6th place in the west, which is a bold prediction that I made for them back in December. The difference between 5th and 6th is the difference between them making it past the first round of the playoffs. But in order for them to make it to 5th, they’ll need to win teams that they’re not expected to win. The Rockets, during December and recently have been remarkably predictable in terms of winning games they’re supposed to win and losing games that they’re supposed to lose (with the exception of the Kings game, of course). If they remain doing what they’re supposed to do, then they will very likely lose no more than 7 games the rest of the season.
One game I think they’ll win that they’re not supposed to win is the OKC game after the All-Star break. I think Harden will finally get revenge on his former team. The first two times that Rockets faced OKC, the circumstances were far from ideal for the Rockets. I think this third time, they will finally triumph, because it’s not on a back-to-back and the superstars always seem to have a bit of a let down after the All-Star break. The one concern I have is that OKC have already lost two in a row and will be very hungry for a win. However, I think with the All-Star break, that dampens a lot of the hunger. I would have been a lot more concerned and probably wouldn’t predict a Rockets win (due to OKC’s two game losing streak) if it weren’t for the All-Star break that serves as a psychological re-set.
Anyway, hope you’re all enjoying the All-Star festivities. Feel free to post them here. Hope Lin wins his skills challenge.