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The Inbounds: Houston, We Have A Solution

Aug 24, 2012, 5:54 PM EDT

Houston Rockets Introduce Jeremy Lin Getty Images

Welcome to The Inbounds, touching on a big idea of the day. It could be news, it could be history, it could be a tangent, it could be love. OK, it’s probably not love. Enjoy.

Maybe no team will have the kind of predicted-win variance from fans and experts this season than the Houston Rockets. Some think that they’re going to be downright awful, a wretched mishmash of forwards and injured guards, built around a lack of size and no real starpower. Others think it’s entirely possible this team can swing for the playoffs. A young, versatile core with Jeremy Lin making the plays, a defense built around Omer Asik, and if even one of the three rookies breaks out, look out. They could massively exceed expectations or completely crash and burn into the ground prompting a full-scale re-reboot, and you wouldn’t really be surprised at either, nor would you be shocked at a good-not-great late lottery finish, typically referred to as the “Rockets” finish every year.

They’ve got four separate gambles going on. First, that Jeremy Lin is the player he was for two weeks in February and not the player he was, you know, any other time. That in the right system, with the confidence and what he learned about himself last year, he can be the kind of playmaking, odds-defying producer who set the league on fire. Second, that one of the rookies will work out. If Jeremy Lamb works out? Great. An athletic two-guard who can fill up the scoreboard and whose length on the perimeter provides the anchor of the defense on the edge. If it’s Terrence Jones, a relentless inside attacker with elite athleticism who can also step out and hit a few shots (probably more than he should take), a kind of Josh Smith 2.0 model? Neat. If it’s Royce White, a combo-forward who passes like Bird and leaps like LeBron, fantastic. Just one of them has to pull it off.

Three, that Kevin McHale’s defensive system can take the spare parts and make them into a unit. McHale struggled last year on several fronts. Scheme, execution, and most especially, player relations. Kevin Martin is in the doghouse, Luis Scola was given the amnesty heave-ho, and Kyle Lowry is inexplicably a Raptor. McHale has to take a team with Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin, three rookies, Donatas Motiejunas, and Chandler Parsons, and get them to communicate, attack, and rotate.

It is not a small hill to climb.

And finally, the most likely gamble, and maybe the most important. That somewhere in this combination of guys is the ability to trade for a major player and that the other players will fit around him.

GM Daryl Morey has missed out on the stars. There’s just no getting around it. From Carmelo Anthony  to Chris Paul to Dwight Howard, he’s oh-fer since the end of the Yao Ming era in drawing a major player to Houston’s traffic jams. He’s constantly built the team ready to acquire and take on a star, and he’s managed to field competitive non-playoff teams without sacrificing payroll or draft picks. But the criticism of him is valid until he’s able to schmooze a big name to buy in, and be able to pull off the deal to acquire him.

He’s certainly got the tools. The Rockets can offer any team that has to ditch its best player a combination of Kevin Martin’s contract, extra draft picks, and young players, without cleaning out the cupboard. Especially if they need forwards.

Lord, can the Rockets offer forwards.

So if the Rockets can just find that situation that’s ripe, and there seems to be a superstar moving every year in this league now (and they’ve run out of big markets to move to), they can snag the guy. And they’ll have so much left over, they’ll be able to build right away. A team with a good center in either Asik or Motiejunas (neither of which are locks but it’s possible both could be retained in trade and that one would work out), a capable point guard in Lin, and the wings to fit around the player means that there’s no need to build up, no spending splurge needed like in New Jersey or Miami.

The bad news? They’re not the only one. The Sixers just got their guy in Andrew Bynum, so they’re off the list. But Denver, Utah, Phoenix, Cleveland all have similar situations and the ability to take on deals. It’s a stronger market now, and the Rockets have the most, but that doesn’t mean they have the most chances. Plus, that guy may never come available.

But the real key here is you have to do everything you can, and the Rockets have. If they can’t acquire a superstar despite having the most assets, and if none of the young players turn into legitimate stars, and their combination of players don’t gel, and they can’t lure free agents, then you know what? Everything has gone wrong that can go wrong, and that’s just the way it goes.

The ability for Houston to absorb a major contract and to still retain their ability to compete without major rebuilding should not be overstated. They don’t have players with set tendencies who need X or Z to succeed. All of their players are either young enough to be malleable, or their games fit snugly around an alpha scorer.

In short, the have the best archaeologists, the most resources, the finest scholars, and every mode of transportation available, including camels.

But the trick is still finding the Holy Grail.

  1. dls612 - Aug 24, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    Who helped you come up with that title? Aren’t u proud!

  2. yankeesjetsknicksrangers - Aug 24, 2012 at 7:59 PM

    I wish Lin good luck, but people do forget after that great start the Knicks Lost 9 out of 12 and 6 in a row with Lin at the point to get D’antoni fired.

    Some of those games were ugly.
    Nets, Deron 38 pts
    Miami, Lin couldn’t even bring the ball up the court
    Boston, Rondo Triple Double
    San Antonio, Parker 32 pts
    Milwaukee, Jennings 25 pts 5 reb 10 ast
    Philly, Lou Williams, 28 pts off the bench
    Chicago, Rose 32 pts

    And no, Melo wasn’t guarding any of these guys.
    The Knicks finished the season12-5 after Lin got hurt. Like I said, good luck, you’ll need it Houston.

    • gmen4life33 - Aug 24, 2012 at 8:40 PM

      Also a Knicks fan, and have a few problems with your statement.

      1) Lin was a 2nd year waived player Knicks picked up. He got no playing time, and hardly any real practice, before being thrown in the fire.

      2) Listing 3 Olympic Veteran PGs scoring on Lin (who was basically a rookie) and saying “Good luck, you’ll need it” is stupid. Even a HOF PG would get abused as a rookie by Rondo, DRose, Parker.

      3) MIA game they trapped Lin every chance they got. MIA players said after the game there game planned FOCUSED on LIN. Not Melo, or Stat, but Lin. The Knicks as a team did not adjust.

      4) Knicks started losing those games w/Lin as starting PG ONLY when Stat and Melo came back. Lin was very good as the FOCAL POINT of the free-flowing offense of Lin, Fields, Novak, Jeffries, Chandler. Lots of movement, lots of cutting, lots of Lin isolation, and it worked for the Knicks. When Stat/Melo returned? No more cutting, no more Lin isolation.

      *Quick note that proves this point clearly. Lin was average in % for catch-and-shoot jump shots. BUT was top 10 of ALL NBA players for % in jump shots created off dribble. Right up there with Durant, Dirk and the big boys. Lin needs the ball in his hands.

      *Another quick note, no PG hit wing cutters off of picks at a higher % then Lin last year (big reason he didnt fit with Stat). This shows he needed a free flowing offense with spacing, not Melo iso ball.

      5) Houston just got a young, extremely talented and hardworking pg for FREE! And its only 8 million a year! They don’t need your fake “Good luck with that”.

      • blue18hutthutt - Aug 25, 2012 at 2:14 PM

        Excellent, fact-filled post

      • nokoolaidcowboy - Aug 25, 2012 at 6:55 PM

        Dude, I wish more Lin bashers would read your post.

      • borderline1988 - Aug 26, 2012 at 4:25 PM

        I dont know man.
        Lin has some serious, serious flaws to his game.

        – For one, he can’t do anything with his left hand. Forget about finishing, he can’t even drive or bring the ball up the court that way. For a PG, that’s a serious flaw.

        – He struggles against ball pressure. If another team is doubling you, a PG needs to know how to get the ball to other players. Lin was pick-pocketed multiple times in that Miami game, b/c he simply is not as quick and doesn’t have the incredible handles that most PGs have.

        – He is seriously turnover prone. Even during the win streak that saw him average like 25 and 8, he was giving the ball up numerous times. That’s a function of his limited game..he constantly found himself in situations he didn’t know how to handle, and then he gives the ball up. He often lost the ball simply when Miami’s quick PGs put pressure on him in single coverage, b/c they attacked his right side, and they attacked him high enough that his forwards couldn’t set picks for him…

        – He’s not that good of a shooter. He was hot for a couple games, but over time, he will fall back to average

        – The reason why he was so incredible in that streak was b/c they kept having him run that pick and roll to the right side, where he was fearless in going all the way to the rim, shooting, or passing/lobbing the ball to cutters. I actually found it incredible that teams didn’t adjust to his game earlier. But once they did, opponents realized that his game is super-limited. If you don’t let the Knicks offense set up in that pick-and-roll style (for one, like pressuring Lin up high and forcing him to make a play before the pick comes), Lin really struggled to do anything.

        – Lastly, his defense is really bad. He was weak lateral movement and is not very quick. That’s why guards can torch him. Doesnt mean that much…guys like Nash and Calderon are just as bad, but at least they produce more consistently on the offensive end.

        I really like Lin, so I hope he can become a solid starting NBA PG. But he really needs to work on his game, or he will be exposed big time.

    • gmen4life33 - Aug 24, 2012 at 8:47 PM

      on and

      6) Stop embarassing Knicks fan with your B.S. We were 8-15, about to be 8-16 (getting beat by the Nets) AND Melo and Stat just got injured. Season over right? No. Lin comes out of nowhere, wins that game (cough cough by going off against D Will) and gets us to .500. Lots of Knicks fans forget we were about to miss the Playoffs, FOR REAL. How embarassing would that have been? And now you want to trash dude? Please become a Nets fan

  3. timb12 - Aug 24, 2012 at 8:59 PM

    Won’t Lin be the focus next year? I think he’s the guy for the Rockets by default. Maybe it’s because of my dislike for Kevin Martin, but I really don’t think that he deserves much focus.

    • money2long - Aug 24, 2012 at 9:39 PM

      kevin martin is good. i feel he is the better player between the two at the moment.

  4. phaden27 - Aug 24, 2012 at 9:46 PM

    Jeremy who?

  5. timb12 - Aug 24, 2012 at 9:51 PM

    I know he’s solid. I’m a little biased though because I don’t really like players who put up a high number of shots and don’t play too much defense. But he can score and get to the free throw line. I don’t like either of the two as the main option though.

  6. rocketsbb - Aug 24, 2012 at 10:41 PM

    Actually the rockets have 4 rookies but d-mo is already a confident mature guy who can lead a team and is only 21!
    And most nba big men aren’t used to guarding a guy who can play the post and shoot a very high % from beyond the 3 pt line. He could involve to a dirk 2.0 or even a it better.

  7. blazin211 - Aug 25, 2012 at 1:01 PM

    Jeremy Lin is a bum point blank period

    • nokoolaidcowboy - Aug 25, 2012 at 6:57 PM

      Wow, that was very in depth. The way you backed up your statement was spell binding! [sarcasm]

  8. dysraw1 - Aug 25, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    Jeremy Lin wont be the problem in Texas. Mchale is gonna have to get everybody to buy in to his teams concepts something he had problems with last year. yankeejetsknicksrangers is right about J Lin getting scorched in those games though his D an strength are some of the things he should be working on . no one expects him to be an ace defender. he reminds me of Mark Jackson in that he cant check anyone but you have to have him on the floor to run things

  9. sdlakerfan - Aug 25, 2012 at 6:00 PM

    You’re kidding, right? They’re going to suck. Then they get top picks on rookie contracts. :-)

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