Jeremy Lin is Biggest Variable for Houston Rockets Heading Into NBA Playoffs

Jeremy Lin Houston Rockets

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets are one of the four most entertaining teams in the league (along with the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks in my opinion). Offensively, Houston provides a combination of European finesse and NBA smarts, fueled by advanced analytics and original offensive prototypes.

That being said, Houston probably won’t get out of the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. Of everyone on the roster, Jeremy Lin is by far the biggest variable. Lin’s the guy who could be the spark plug for any extended playoff run this spring, or he could be the guy Houston is desperately trying to unload this summer.

Lin has been up and down all season long. He started hot, averaging 16.3 points and 4.7 assists per game on 40 percent shooting from three-point range in his first 15 games. Then he tapered off a little bit, with his three-point shooting dipping down to 34 percent by Jan. 15 as injuries contributed to his declining numbers.

When Patrick Beverley returned from a broken hand in late January, Lin was back on the bench and Houston started a win streak. Since the third game of the win streak (when James Harden returned from a minor injury), Lin has struggled. In the last 26 games, including four starts, he’s averaged just 11.2 points and 4.0 assists per game with his shooting plummeting to just 42 percent.

So, what’s the problem with Lin? Inconsistency. On a given night, there’s no way to tell what kind of game he’ll have, and Kevin McHale knows that. On Mar. 9 against the Portland Trail Blazers, Lin was instrumental in one of Houston’s most impressive victories of the year, scoring 26 points, including 10-for-12 from the free-throw line. If you had only seen Lin play that game against Portland, you would have to think he was a sure-thing All-Star, as confidence oozed from his every pore, attacking the basket with reckless abandon.

On the other hand, if you only watched Lin play against the Clippers on Mar. 29, you would have wondered how this guy was given $25 million. He shot just 1-for-9 from the field, turned the ball over three times and was caught in the lane after picking up his dribble at least eight times (a poor habit he picked up mid season). Meanwhile, his counterpart Chris Paul scored 30 points and dished out 12 assists.

The bottom line is that on a given night, there’s no telling what Lin will give you, but the same doesn’t apply for the rest of the roster. Everyone else on the roster has pretty much cozied into their roles, with the exclusion of Terrence Jones, whose role continues to expand as he gains experience.

The point here is that what Lin does the rest of the year is crucial to his team’s success, his wallet and his NBA future. McHale lacks faith in Jones late in games (and rightfully so), which means that going small down the stretch of playoff games is not just an option; it’s going to happen.

If Lin can’t be a difference maker, he’ll be part of the problem in Houston; that’s the way it’s been all season long, and I don’t see that changing now. As fans, we just have to hope Lin is shooting the ball well, engaged and most importantly, confident for the rest of the year.

Hopefully, he can go Linsane on everyone this spring.

Mike De Moor is a Houston Rockets writer for Follow him on Twitter @MikeDeMoor, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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  • Je Ballew

    This guy is a terrible garbage writer with an agenda against Lin. Clutch, Yahoo and Rant. Who will he write for next?

    • keekles

      Let me guess, Chris Baldwin is the next Hunter S. Thompson in your book?

      • John Smith

        hahaha u r on every Lin articles bashing Lin huh? Get a life.

        • keekles

          I am? I feel like I’ve only commented on 2 or 3 of the billion articles about Lin on the internet… I do see you being a good little cheerleader quite a bit though. You look pretty in pigtails.

  • Dennis Reyes

    He just raise lin up at the rooftop at the
    first part of his article and push lin from the rooftop down to the last of his article..

  • westseadoc

    He is partially right but part of Lin’s inconsistency is the inconsistency of playing time and allowing Lin to make a mistake and then make up for it later. Lin may be too inconsistent to play a big part of the Rocket’s play off hopes but much of that sits on McHale’s shoulders. True, Lin is a professional and he shouldn’t have to have his hand held and he ought to be albe to change his own diapers. Nonetheless, if that were always true, then there would be no real need for an NBA coach, either. Since we know some coaches win consistently with average teams and win big with really good teams and win championship teams with great teams, then we have to accept that coaches have to accept a lot of the blame if a promising player craps out, esp any one that has already performed at a high level in the past (at the NBA level). McHale is just an average coach and that’s being charitable.

    • keekles

      Lin is averaging 33.8 mpg in the last 5 games vs. his season average of 29 mpg. Beverley is averaging 31.3 mpg on the season. Lin’s season FG% is 44.4% while in the last 5 games his FG% is 32.8%. His 3p% for the season is 34.2% and his % for the last 5 games is 36.4%. His scoring is wildly inconsistent, even given his playing time. McHale’s abilities as a coach are average, correct. I am not a fan of McHale by any means. But, excusing Lin for his production vs. his contract is completely ignorant and biased. Please explain why Lin is immune to criticism.

      • sws94

        You sound like one of those Clutchfan forum bashers with LIn is “averaging” blah blah blah. Anyone that watches the Rockets knows how he is inconsistently used, may play 20 minutes one game and 40 minutes the next according to McHale’s whims, may be ask to play point in one game and shooting guard in the other, played with the bench in one game and with starters in the other. He is not close to playing his game or being integrated into the offense. This isn’t an excuse, it’s knowing Lin’s strengths vs. the Rockets system and noting now much Lin is not being played to his strengths, has a shorter leash when others are playing, not being able to establish a rhythm, not having an idea of how many minutes he’ll play. And don’t for a second act like McHale doesn’t allow a Parsons or Beverley to play through their boneheaded mistakes because except for a game here or there, their minutes are guaranteed, Lin’s is not. Lin could be a much more consistent player with a coaching staff that played him properly and backed him at least as much as the do other developing players. He isn’t immune to criticism but there are people who know his situation than people like this writer or people at clutchfans that haven’t seen him play extensively in other systems.

        Right now Lin has a back injury which affects his finishing around the rim. Parsons had one too that affected his shot early in the season. Harden had foot injuries that affected his game earlier in the season. But Lin, oh mighty Lin has to be perfect? Give me a break already. He has a
        great attitude and is a team player and does the best he can in not a
        ideal circumstance for his game development. He has improvement to make but the Rockets media has been dreadful in their coverage of him in trying to understand his game and why he hasn’t developed as much as he can. Look at the Rockets coach and system, how much Harden controls the offense, there’s your answer.

        • Intrep1d

          Everyone needs to avoid the ClutchFans forum. It’s Toxic. They don’t even focus on Rockets discussion. It’s either 90% about Lin or certainly feels like it. Here are some recent Lin and Lin-related threads:

          Lin without a ball dominant teammate
          Is Jeremy Lin the Asian Jackie Robinson of our time?
          Jeremy Lin is a joke!!!
          Jeremy Lin upset with his play against Clippers
          Is Lin “untouchable”?
          Hotties and Jeremy Lin Tracker
          What do you think Jeremy Lin is worth?
          McHale is holding Lin back and put him in his dog house
          Jeremy Lin WAIVED!
          Jeremy Lin’s upside
          Lillard vs Lin
          Does Lin get forced to put up low percentage shots too often?
          Why did McFail put in Jeremy Lin?
          I’ve seen enough – Canaan Should start
          Will Jeremy Lin be a hero in the Playoffs?

          Every single game thread is overrun with Lin haters. People don’t even want to talk about Dwight, Harden etc, and that includes sports writers.

      • westseadoc

        We’re talking a couple of disparate variables here. First, his contract at this point of the season is irrelevant. The point is, no matter what his contract, Lin is needed for the team to advance deep into the playoffs (as is Beverly). I’m frustrated that he his recent performances have been average (though with an occasional clutch shot here and there) and well below expectation for his AVERAGE contract (not the balloon). Jeremy has to step up bigger no matter the other adverse parts of his environment; that being said, McHale’s job, as coach, is to get the most out of his players and if he can’t enhance their performance, then he damn well better find out what he does that detracts from his player’s performance and stop that. Of course, Lin bears the ultimate responsibility for his performance, but I’m saying that McHale is not facilitating the best performance out of JLin than is possible. I’d consider firing McHale depending on the team’s performance down the stretch. This incompetent coaching may well lead to an earlier playoff exit than is deserved and he deserves to lose his job if the team flops in the first round. So much of playoff Basketball is mental and if that is true, then again, the coach has to be responsible, esp if the players are young. Giving them any form of performance crisis is on the coach.

  • mma_ko

    This writer has long been a Lin hater, but I will agree that Lin can be the difference maker. However, what he conveniently fails to mention is that Lin’s performance goes hand in had with his confidence, but Mchale and the Rockets have done nothing but try to wreck his confidence ever since he got to Houston.

  • plansmaker

    How can any player be consistent if he is been yanked in and out of game constantly by Kevin McHale?
    How can anyone be inspired to give their best when coach don’t have confidence in you.
    How can a player plays with steady rhythm when been force to change roles from game to game?
    Does anyone know Jeremy Lin’s role with Rockets anymore? It make you sick to see how McHale treated Lin with such disrespect…And now they want him to be the savior of Rockets in playoffs?…NUTS!!!!

  • Glenn Gamut

    I don’t think that Lin’s inconsistency is due to inconsistent playing time. I believe that it is because he is a PG that never has the ball in his hands. Harden dominates the ball way too much and in the same space that Lin would occupy. Lin’s biggest games this year came when Harden was injured. It would be good for Lin to move this off-season. A team like the Lakers could use him. A scoring PG that can dish out 7-10 assists per would fit right in. NY would probably take him back… but I think he would put a team like Indiana over the top. He would fit in perfectly… distribute and have a green light to shoot. He would fix thier offensive problems and because they are a defensive minded team, they could make up for his defensive liability.

    • Emyl On Tilt

      hey Glenn! very goodprediction, 4 months ago!

  • John Smith

    wow, an article from Demoor that has doesnt show contempt against Jeremy Lin??! What happened?

    I gotta add though: the game against the Clips, nobody shot the ball well on the Rockets except for Canaan.

    Another thing is, even though Lin is the ‘pg’ we all know Harden controls the ball most of the time, that’s the way McHale wants it. But we all saw from the Raptors game where Lin almost single handedly erased the 18ish pt deficit caused by Harden’s ball hogging… and only to see Harden ruined it later.

  • Tom

    It is true that the game against the Clippers, JLin had trouble scoring going 1-for-9. But the writer of this article tells us that on March 29, “Chris Paul scored 30 points and dished out 12 assists” implying that JLin had trouble guarding him. Actually, Chandler Parsons guarded Chris Paul for most of that game, not JLin. Chris Paul can pretty much have his way against any player he wants. BTY, does anyone remember last year on March 30th when the Rockets beat the Clippers. JLin was the starting point guard in that game along with Parsons, Asik and the rest of the team, minus Harden who was injured, and the Rockets came away with their only win of the season against the Clippers!

    • Robert W

      De Moor=Plus Moroon. JLin was not playing the PG role like CP3 in this recent lost to the Clips.