Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin McHale benched Jeremy Lin (and two other starters) to start the second half of the Rockets' loss to the Timberwolves on Saturday. This is not how anyone planned it.
Kevin McHale is frustrated in Houston, and it's easy to understand why: the Rockets have lost seven straight to fall to .500, a once promising playoff run now in severe doubt. The most recent loss came Saturday against a Minnesota Timberwolves squad with like three healthy bodies; Andrei Kirilenko went nuts to lead the Wolves to victory.
McHale snapped at halftime, and decided to bench three starters to open the third quarter: Patrick Patterson, Chandler Parsons and ... Jeremy Lin. Patterson is a former lottery pick that is just this season showing his value. Parsons has been way better than imagined most of the season (to the point Bill Simmons recently [ridiculously] called him "untradable" on account of having such a favorable contract). Lin, of course, is meant to be the co-star with James Harden that leads this team to great things.
Getting benched for Patrick Beverly? Not quite part of the plan.
Again, McHale benched three players, and told the media he was looking for a spark after a dreadful first half. But the recent problems with the Rockets' offense are largely problems with Lin and Harden. Harden's shooting has fallen off of a cliff during the seven-game skid, as teams are reading Houston's scheme and forcing edits that don't come easily. From the above-linked story, here's the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen talking about what's happening:
As teams have increasingly run at the Rockets' ball-handlers, movement has become sluggish and sporadic. The Rockets have gotten little going toward the basket, especially with Harden missing on drives the past three games. [...]
"We're not getting easy baskets anymore," McHale said. "We're not running hard. We're so out of character right now. Turnovers. Guys are open. We're not hitting them. We're really in a funk. We have to get ourselves out of it, and we will."
Harden and Lin are averaging a combined eight turnovers per game over the past 10. But Harden also scores in bunches, racks up as many assists as Lin and rebounds. Lin isn't scoring much this season -- and that's what led to his break-out in New York and his fat new contract. So while you can lament Harden's turnovers and wish they'd knock way down, you're still getting star-level performance from him. Not so with Lin. If he's playing this sloppy and not scoring, he's just not worth it.
Fortunately for him, Beverly (who was overseas until recently) isn't Lin II; there will not likely be Bevsanity. On Saturday, Beverly picked up three fouls and had two turnovers in the first three minutes of the second half. McHale quickly benched him for Lin, who played the remainder of the game and scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half. Basically, the Rockets are stuck trying to break out of this horrible slump with the pieces they have: Harden and Lin. It's up to the coaching staff to figure out how to get something out of Lin when things aren't going right. Let's hope it can happen.
For more on the Rockets, visit The Dream Shake.