If you turned on your television at all during January/February of 2012, then you know who Jeremy Lin is. Lin is the point guard from Harvard that sparked the New York Knicks and the sports world with his inspiring rags-to-riches story.
Likewise, if you’re an NBA fan I’m sure that you’ve grown to be quite familiar with James Harden as well. Harden was the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Sixth Man the past three years and a major reason why the Thunder made it all the way to the NBA Finals last season.
During the offseason however, both guys joined the Houston Rockets and for the first time since Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming were carrying them, the Rockets became relevant once again.
Is it a good thing that the Rockets’ two best players (and three if you count center Omer Asik) have had all of their success with other teams? Personally, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s the nature of the beast in today’s NBA where free agency allows players to literally choose any team that they want, assuming they have the cap space.
Also, it’s not as though the Rockets were overpaying mediocre guys. Lin was signed to a deal that pays him less about$8 million annually, and even if he doesn’t quite get back to that level of Linsanity he showed in New York, he will still be a bargain for the next three years. Harden got a max extension upon being traded to Houston which pays him about $80 million over five years, but at the time of writing this he leads the league in scoring. So even though he’s making as much money as he can, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that he isn’t also earning it.
We covered Houston’s pursuit of Dwight Howard over the summer here.
Harden may not have been the guy that General Manager Daryl Morey was thinking of when he made his moves, but he ended up being a pretty good consolation prize.
The Rockets enter Friday’s game in Memphis at 2-2, but on a two game losing streak.
Houston opened the season with two straight wins on the road against Detroit and Atlanta, but have lost their only two home games so far.
Former Chicago Bull Omer Asik leads the team in rebounding, averaging right at 14 per game. Granted, it’s early in the season, but that mark puts him third in the league overall behind Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao and Memphis’ own Zach Randolph.
Point guard- Jeremy Lin vs. Mike Conley Jr. These two guys are able to flash some extraordinary defense from the point guard position. Lin is actually second in the league in steals at this point of the season and Conley is eighth. If Conley is able to take care of the ball and run the offense, then the Grizzlies should win. Lin is more of a gunslinger point guard in that he will turn it over, but he also makes a lot of plays. If he makes more plays than turnovers and he shoots a high percentage from the field, then the Rockets could steal one on the road.
Shooting guard- Tony Allen vs. James Harden. This will be a joy to watch. Allen is perennially one of the best perimeter defenders in the league and Harden is an All-Star caliber two guard. Harden will probably get his points regardless, but if Allen can turn Harden into an inefficient gunner, that works to the Grizzlies’ advantage. 22 points on 13 shots is good for Houston, 22 points on 24 shots is good for the Grizzlies.
Small forward- Rudy Gay vs. Chandler Parsons. Parsons is a traditional small forward that can stretch the floor but has problems defensively with quicker players. This is a matchup that Rudy Gay should be able to exploit on offense. Whether or not he does is a different story.
Power forward- Zach Randolph vs. Patrick Patterson. These two guys are a lot alike. They”re considered “undersized” compared to some power forwards from the past, but fit in pretty well in today’s NBA. Patterson is a second-year player from Kentucky that shoots around 45% from the field. The only discernible difference between the two is that Patterson is right-handed and Randolph is a lefty.
Center- Marc Gasol vs. Omer Asik. Gasol has picked right up where he left off in the 2012 playoffs, which is to say he’s been great so far this season. Asik was viewed as a bit of a wild card when he hit free agency last year. He had garnered a reputation as a game-changing presence at center in Chicago, but had never had any sort of extended minutes behind Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. So far he’s fit in well in Houston. If he keeps his fouls down (his biggest problem with the Bulls) then his lack of offense isn’t such a big issue since the Rockets have so many good scorers.