I’m Okay with Lin Being 6th Man IF He Finishes Games

So, there’s been a lot of talk about Lin not starting in the game against the Pacers in Manila. I actually wasn’t too surprised, as I expected McHale to experiment with Lin and Beverley in the preseason. As for whether or not this had anything to do with the whole McFale/Lin dynamics I’ve discussed in the past, the jury is still out on that. I’m sure there’s some of it, because McHale has said in the past that you want your starters to be the BEST five players on the team. So, him even considering not starting Lin does tell me that he doesn’t consider Lin being clearly one of the five best players on the team. But setting the McFale/Lin dynamics all aside, I can understand the decision to use Lin as a sixth man ala Ginobili.

Here’s my reasoning for it. Lin makes ANY four guys on the floor better, because he’s the consummate floor general. He just knows how to play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. What was so captivating about Linsanity in New York is it brought back the fun in basketball. After endless Melo iso’s, the ball finally moved around and a bunch of no-names, such as Steve Novak, suddenly played like stars. And MOST importantly Linsanity won games. This is what Lin does. He makes his teammates better and helps teams win games.

There’s no doubt Parsons, Howard, and Harden (PHH) are better with Lin on the floor. The second unit is also better with Lin in the floor. Like I said, Lin makes ANY four guys on the floor better. So, as a coach, trying to figure out what is best for the team, I think an argument can be made for bringing Lin off the bench to help bring cohesion to the second unit. In other words, the second unit needs Lin a lot more than the starters need Lin, because Beverley can’t run the offense. The bench needs someone to run the show a lot more than PHH do. I’m not saying that PHH doesn’t need someone who can run the offense. I’m just saying that they don’t need it as much as the second unit. And, there is only one Jeremy Lin. I didn’t see the first quarter of the game, so I’m not sure how Howard faired without Lin. That would be the main concern with using Lin as a sixth man, since Howard is now a big focus for the Rockets. And that all depends on how well Harden can work with Howard.

Against the lowly Pelicans, the Rockets second unit looked discordant on both ends of the court, but against a great Pacers team, the second unit looked like stars for the Rockets, all because Lin was running the show. There was a lot of cohesion and guys like D-Mo looked great. There’s a lot of talk about Beverley’s defense. And there’s no denying the amount of effort that Beverley puts forth on the defensive end. But what is often overlooked is that Lin is also a great defender. What separates Lin from Beverley, on the defensive end, is that Lin is an all-around great defender, while Beverley is just great at harassing his man. Lin is good at harassing his man, but he also understands spacing and has excellent instincts on the defensive end. This is how Lin gets so many steals. He’s able to anticipate where the ball is going and he knows when to lay off his man and focus on helping out on another man. Of course, sometimes he gets caught and looses his man. But this is just the risk you take if you are trying to help out on defense. All this is to say that too much is made of needing Beverley’s defense to start the game. I think that’s total bogus. The ONLY reason why you wouldn’t start Lin is not because of Beverley’s harassing defense (i.e., Beverley’s main strength), it is because of Beverley’s main deficiencies (i.e., running the offense). Like I’ve said in the past, Beverley and Toney Douglas are like twin brothers to me, but Beverley is just a better Toney Douglas. I never saw Toney Douglas as a Point Guard. He’s just an under-sized Shooting Guard and that’s EXACTLY what Beverley is. So when he’s the only guy running the offense, then you’re in trouble. This is why it makes sense to use Lin as a sixth man. Again, the main concern is how Howard does without Lin. Only time will tell.

Lin may also be able to up his scoring average playing as a sixth man. And Lin does look even more aggressive playing with the second unit, because he no longer has to defer to Harden. So it could be a very good thing for Lin to be the sixth man in the same way that Ginobili is the sixth man for the Spurs and in the same way that Harden was for the Thunder. What this means is that Lin needs to finish nearly all if not all of the games this season.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this season is Linsanity 2.0. Lin looks really good. And if you don’t see this, then you’re still blinded by your preconceptions of Lin. He was able to work on his game injury-free in the off season and he looks ready to play. If Lin wasn’t the third or fourth option on a team, Lin would be averaging All-Star numbers. I know many will scoff at this as being Lin fanaticism. But if Lin manages to average 14.5+ scoring this season and 5.5+ assists as a third or fourth option with a low usage rate, then those are All-Star numbers, because he would be averaging 20+ and 8+ assists if he was on any other team that didn’t have two superstars (one of whom needs the ball in his hands, just as much as Lin).

Anyway, that’s a whole other discussion. The most important part about Lin being sixth man is that he needs to finish nearly all if not all of the games this season. And this is where the whole McFale/Lin dynamics comes into play. If McHale uses Lin as a sixth man and lets Lin finish nearly all if not all of the games this season, then using Lin as a sixth man is not influenced by the whole McFale/Lin dynamics. If Lin doesn’t finish games, then this is ALL about the McFale/Lin dynamics. I don’t care how McHale wants to spin it in press conferences, saying that he needs Beverley’s defense at the end of games. The truth is, Lin every bit as good of a defender, because Lin is an excellent all around defender, whereas Beverley is an elite on-ball defender. So there’s no reason to not let Lin finish games, unless you have your blinders on and fool yourself into thinking that Lin is not a good defender because there’s no way some Asian from Harvard can keep up with NBA players.

I think McHale and the coaching staff is honestly still trying to figure out whether or not they want to start Lin or Beverley. So I don’t think they’ve made up their minds. And I don’t blame them, because it really is a difficult decision. The Pacers game in Manila does give a lot of credibility to using Lin as a sixth man to run the show with the second unit. I think it does make the Rockets more dangerous as a team. Rockets are going to have the deepest bench in the NBA and I think they’ll have a top offense and a top defense. This Rockets team looks so scary, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they end up winning the whole thing. No one expects them to, but I just don’t see how any team is going to stop this Rockets team, as long as there are no major injuries. But this is a whole other discussion.

Apparently, McHale will be alternating their starting positions throughout the pre-season, so Lin will start in Taiwan. I don’t mind this experimentation and I think it’s smart for McHale to use the pre-season to test out different lineups. That’s one big part of what the season is like and when you have a deep team like the Rockets do, that becomes even more critical. I just hope that once he figures it out, he sticks with the same starters for nearly all if not all of the regular season games. I don’t think it’s good to keep switching lineups at whim. At least this is my initial bias. That being said, I do expect McHale to continue to play with the starting lineup during the regular season. Who knows, it may be good strategically to keep starting lineups fluid. I just think it might have an adverse effect on team chemistry. But I’m sort of open to it. At the end of the day, all I care about is that Lin finishes the games and plays 30+ minutes a game. If McHale allows him AT LEAST that, then Lin will take it from there. Thank you very much.

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Even More Important for Lin to be THE Floor General this Season

Last season I wrote a post about how Rockets are more dangerous with the ball starting out in Lin’s hands during end of game situations. Well, this season, with the addition of Dwight Howard and the emergence of Parsons as a near All-Star, it is even more critical for the ball to start out in Lin’s hands not just in end-of-game situations, but for the majority of the game. The reasons I gave in the post I referred to last year become magnified even more now that we have two superstars and a near All-Star in Parsons.

Harden is an elite scorer, but Lin is still a better floor general. Lin is all about the ball finding the optimal scoring situation, whereas Harden is more about scoring the ball himself. But the Rockets are no longer a one-man team (not that I thought it was last season). Now we have four great scorers in our starting lineup (Harden, Howard, Lin, Parsons), so we need to have the ball in the hands of the guy who’s all about the ball finding the optimal scoring situation, Lin. Lin was like this even back in high school. This is the creed that Lin lives by as a baller. Also, as the season progresses, I’m sure Howard is going to figure out that he’ll have more opportunities to score if the does PnRs with Lin vs. Harden, since Lin is an even more willing passer than Harden is. So if McHale wants to make Howard happy, he should let Lin be the main distributor. I just hope McHale figures all of this out. If not, then Rockets won’t be as good as everyone expects them to be this year. But if they do figure this out and Lin’s usage rate surpasses Harden’s then Rockets will be in the Western conference finals and I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up winning the whole thing this year. It always takes time to gel, of course, but they’ll gel much quicker if Lin is allowed to be THE floor general. I just have very little confidence that McHale will let Lin do what Lin does best. I think it’s more likely that McHale will decrease Lin’s role even more and let Beverly take away even more minutes from Lin this season. Let’s hope McHale wakes up.

A recent article, pointed out to me by one of our readers CH, speaks to the importance of letting Lin be the main distributor on the team. I have written about many of the points that this writer makes in his article, so just wanted to highlight it for you all who may have not seen the article. I’m glad to see someone in the somewhat mainstream media echoing a lot of things that I’ve been writing about here.

First impressions of Linharden debut

1st. I know it’s just one game, but Harden looks like a legitimate superstar to me. Morey must be (fill in the superlative) tonight. He has an all around game: 37 pts; 12 ast; 6 reb; 4 steals; 4 TO. That’s as good of a debut as any I’ve seen. Granted, it’s against a not very good defensive team.

2nd. Linharden looks like I thought and hoped it would look like. Sure, Lin’s stat line isn’t so impressive: 12 pts; 8 ast; 4 reb; 4 steals; 4 TO. But Lin actually had a great game if you watched the game. Again, I think people miss all the little things that Lin does to help a team win. When Lin was on the bench, the Detroit Pistons went on a huge run and Rockets ended up with their biggest deficit of the game (or close to it), I believe. The synergy that is Linharden looked good tonight. At least it was a good start. I expect more in the future, but tonight is what I expected to happen. Harden is not a ball hog, despite scoring 37 points. He actually passed to Lin quite a bit and seemed to be the only Rockets player to pass to Lin. Parsons, noticeably didn’t pass to Lin. I’m not sure what that’s about. I noticed at least three instances when Parsons should have passed to Lin to avoid committing a turnover himself or to give the Rockets an easy basket. I think Parsons may have felt a little left out and was trying too hard to be a play maker and create for himself. Parsons played very uncharacteristically tonight. He’s usually a very smart player and doesn’t force things. I’m sure he wasn’t happy with his game. Anyway, back to the Linharden. Man, I can’t wait to see these guys develop together. I’m envisioning an unconventional duo in which both guys handle the ball equally and create for each other. That would be awesome! The only downside to this is that the other players on the team may feel left out, causing a break down in team chemistry. I noticed a little bit of that tonight.

3rd. Asik still so solid. This guy just brings it day in and day out and tonight he looked the best I’ve seen him on the offensive end. Linharden making it happen for Asik time and time again on the offensive end. Asik’s gotta be pretty thrilled–even though you can never tell from looking at him.

4th. I don’t really understand McHale’s decision to play and not to play certain players. Didn’t make any sense tonight. I’m hoping that it’s just because he’s trying out new things. He didn’t play our best rookie: Terrence Jones tonight. That was a blatantly horrible decision, unless something happened to Jones that no one knows about. He also didn’t play any of the other rookies, living up to his reputation (warranted or not) that he prefers veterans. Delfino is definitely his 6th man. So far, that’s been proven to be a good decision, because Delfino has been remarkably consistent. I keep thinking that he’ll have an off shooting night, because of that horrible first pre-season game. But it hasn’t happened, yet.  McHale decided to start Marcus Morris tonight. A guy who’s been out due to injuring himself in the first game. That was a terrible idea. Again, have no idea what McHale is thinking. Anyway, I have a feeling I’ll be continually frustrated with McHale’s decision to play certain players and not play certain players this entire season. I just don’t want him to shun our rookies–especially D-Mo and T-Jones. These two guys are way better than the guys he ended up going with.

5th. Cutting Livingston was a terrible mistake. Should have let Douglas go. I praised Livingston in my summation of the preseason. I also said that I have no idea where Douglas fits into the rotation in that post. He’s not a Point Guard. I don’t know why teams keep trying to make him play that position. He’s just a guy who loves to put up shots. He’s just a very inefficient scorer: A guy who loves to jack up shots, but is very inconsistent at making them. That’s all Douglas is. He’ll be on some nights, but off most nights. He can’t run an offense. One adjustment they MUST make is that if Douglas is in the game with Harden, let Harden take up the damn ball! Or at least make Douglas give up the ball to Harden the moment Douglas passes the half court line. I don’t know why you have Harden out there expending all his energy if you’re just going to let Douglas handle the ball. That’s a waste of Harden’s energy. This is exactly what happened tonight when Lin sat down with 4 fouls and Douglas came in with Harden. Douglas played the point and was very inefficient at it. Harden didn’t touch the ball enough during this time and that’s when Detroit went on a huge run. Hope they’ll make this adjustment in the future. If they had kept Livingston, they wouldn’t have had to make this adjustment. I’d rather Machado play point than Douglas. Again, Douglas is not a Point Guard. Stop forcing him to be one! When are coaches going to get this?

6th. What is going on with Lin NOT getting any calls? I saw this nonsense last season and it looks like it’s continuing. If this keeps on happening I might have to really get into it in one of my posts. We’ll see. Hopefully, they’re just isolated instances. But in this game, it was blatant, because it happened quite a bit. I would think that it would be the opposite, that Lin should be getting all the calls, because he’s big for the NBA. I would think that David Stern would be hinting to all the refs to take care of Lin a little, like they take care of NBA superstars. But no. Hope this changes, because if Lin goes into the paint and doesn’t get the calls, then what’s the point? I suspect this is another reason why Lin’s turnover numbers are so high. He’ll get in the paint get surrounded by guys and sometimes draw contact and they don’t call it. So it turns into a turnover for Lin, because Lin gets knocked down and his opponents are running away with the ball. Talk about being robbed!

7th. Even though we won tonight, I’m concerned about the team chemistry. Granted it’s the first regular season game, but I thought we had very good team chemistry during the preseason on both ends of the floor. But tonight we lacked the cohesiveness. It was more like the Asiklinharden show in terms of chemistry. Of course, this is to be expected with the addition of OKC players. But I think this is something we’ll have to work even harder on now that we have a number 1 option. Many times during this game, it became more of an iso situation, where  Linharden were trying to beat their man one-on-one. Felt like the other guys felt left out–especially Parsons. The ball wasn’t being whipped around like it was in the preseason. The ball stopped. I’m kind of okay with this, because I felt like before, the ball was being passed around a little too much and it felt like Lin didn’t feel comfortable having the ball in his hands for a longer period of time to try and create something. But it seemed like we went a little extreme in the other direction and weren’t whipping the ball around the perimeter enough. I only saw us doing this rarely in tonight’s game, whereas during the preseason, this was happening with regularity. I think this fed into the defensive end and they felt less like a cohesive unit defensively. But this might have to do with all the new players. Again, it’s only their first preseason game, so I’ll take this win. They sure gave us a scare there by being down by 9 or so to begin the 4th. At least this shows that they maintained their composure to stay in the game. Delfino was huge in the 4th for us, tonight. That’s the veteran leadership we need from him.