The Obligatory Jeremy Lin: Beard Don’t LieNEWS, News Right, SPORTS Friday, November 2nd, 2012
Jeremy Lin must be smiling ear to ear right now, one of those foolish, giddy smiles that just can’t be wiped off your face. Like being in love.
The Beard is here.
Just days before Lin was to be thrust into the spotlight of opening day and great expectations on a bum knee and not yet adequate conditioning, the Houston Rockets made the deal that may have saved not only Lin’s career but Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s job.
They acquired James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder. The rest of the details are unimportant.
The move has no downside for Houston or for Jeremy Lin and here’s the short list as to why:
1.) The Rockets got their bona fide star player. If there were any doubts, they were put to rest in the Rockets 105-96 win over Detroit on Tuesday. Harden finished with 37 points on 14-25 shooting and 12 assists. And, Lin put up a solid 12 points and 8 assists.
Even if it was just one game, and even if it was against the Detroit Pistons, there was nothing about that performance that indicated some kind of fluke. Harden wasn’t lights out, or playing out of his head, he just did work. Lin complemented him well. This was an indication of bigger things to come.
2.) James Harden joined the Rockets to build a franchise in his image. Make no mistake that this is his team now. And, that’s a good thing for Lin, who can now get his conditioning up at a more reasonable pace. He doesn’t have to overextend himself to prove he can carry the team. Harden will do that and keep Lin healthy at the same time. He will give Lin the opportunity to be more effective as the season progresses.
Try to imagine this team without Harden right now. It wasn’t going to be pretty. Lin having to carry this team with still questionable explosiveness and stamina, with the pressure he was already facing, wasn’t inspiring very many. It was going to be a long season.
The arrival of Harden not only helps on the court by taking the onus off Lin to score and by giving Houston another primary ball-handler, he takes the focus off Lin in the media as well.
For Harden, Lin is just the kind of point guard he needs. One who can be a facilitator who is willing to give up the ball, and still score when needed. Lin is also a closer, and Harden won’t have to worry about carrying it all by himself. Lin is willing and able to make big plays when the game is on the line.
3.) If the promise of a built-in market from Asia wasn’t enough to attract marquee free agents, the stability of a long-term back court that includes Harden should do the trick. Harden is what Morey calls a foundational player, someone you can build a franchise around.
Name players want to play with a budding star like Harden but only if he’s committed. Harden answered that question by signing a 5-year, 80 million dollar max deal with the Rockets right before they played the Pistons.
This is now a team that has considerable appeal to free agents, a list that includes: Josh Smith, David West, and Paul Millsap, all of whom are unrestricted at the end of the season.
So it’s smiles all around in Houston right now. Potential is a hell of a drug. And that Cheshire grin you’ll start seeing on Lin’s face is love, true buddy cop love. Like Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon sequels, but neither of these guys are gunning for that pension just yet.
Lin is all but 24 years old and Harden, with all his playoff experience, is actually younger at 23. Few back courts have generated this much excitement in Houston.
The Beard + Linsanity = BeardSanity, if that makes any sense. This could be the next Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley. BeardSanity might not match Franchise and Cat on alley-oops and contests of how many crossover dribbles you can fit into one possession, but they have all the tools to be a better overall unit for this team.
Which isn’t to say the Rockets don’t have a long way to go, but at least a real foundation is in place for the next couple of years. Harden and Lin are players wired to make the winning play over the flashy play, the team play over the selfish play. That self-awareness in the game is why fans don’t have to worry about whether or not they will mesh. They have each come from situations where they found a way to make it work.
That’s what makes Harden feel like such a great fit. He must have known he could do this. He had to have some inkling he could be a franchise player or he wouldn’t have been so ready to prove it. Yet he never made it an issue in Oklahoma City. With Russell Westbrook posting another classic “Russell being Russell” performance late in their loss to San Antonio last night, the Thunder might be wondering if they didn’t trade the wrong guy.
BeardSanity and the Rockets will face the Hawks tonight in Atlanta, 7:30pm Eastern. I will be live-tweeting the game on OurChinatown’s Twitter.
Ren Hsieh is a contributing editor for OurChinatown. You can find him on Twitter at @TheRealRenHsieh. Continue the conversation by posting a comment here, on OurChinatown’s Facebook page, or on Twitter at @ourchinatown.
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