The Houston Rockets may have a new X-factor in guard James Harden, but he is still just the team's best scorer. When it comes to leadership and intangibles, that honor belongs to point guard Jeremy Lin and will continue to be for the duration of his tenure with the team.
Don't get me wrong, Harden is still the most valuable player on the team and will carry the Rockets offensively for a majority of the season. Lin, however, is a horse of a different color.
Sure, the Harvard grad can hold his own in the scoring department, as New York's temporary Linsanity showed us last season. Still, that was in a Mike D'Antoni offense in which the point guard is the alpha dog and has free rein of the offense. More importantly, Lin's best games came when Amar'e Stoudemire was away from the team after his brother's death and Carmelo Anthony was injured.
In Houston, while Lin is going to play a significant role in the offense, he's going to be more of a facilitator. Rather than try and hit threes and drive to the basket on most possessions, he's instead going to be more like Jeff Teague by finding the open man and playing tough defense.
By playing that type of game, it'd be hard for Lin not to be the unquestioned leader of the Rockets. He has a team-first attitude and does a good job on both sides of the floor.
More importantly, even with Harden on the team, Lin is going to remain the leader of the Rockets simply because of how hard GM Daryl Morey pursued him over the summer. As a restricted free agent, Lin was signed to a three-year contract worth $25 million, one that pays him $14.8 million in the final year.
Also, as we all remember, Lin's free agency turned into a roller-coaster ride. First, he was granted his Early Bird rights, which would have allowed the New York Knicks to go over the salary cap to sign him.
On top of that, Knicks GM Glen Grunwald said that the team would match any offer the point guard received (via staff reports at The Dallas Morning News).
Sure enough, Morey took advantage of this and offered Lin the heavily backloaded deal, known as a "poison pill" contract, as it would force the Knicks to pay a heavy luxury tax given that they are also have the heavy contracts of Anthony, Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. After a few anxious days, the Knicks opted not to match the offer.
That all being said, to just take away the leadership reins from Lin at this point would just be a slap in the face to the young point guard. He is clearly a born leader and isn't going to make selfish decisions on the floor, so to say he is anything but the general on the court is just wrong.
Granted, Harden is a positive leadership presence too as he is great at creating plays and making his teammates better, but he is not the same type of player as Lin. When push comes to shove, he is more of a scorer and there is nothing wrong with that AT ALL.
Lin, on the other hand, is committed to creating plays first. He may have struggled with his scoring in the preseason, shooting just 28 percent from the field, but his distribution and defense were never an issue.
Thus, while Harden is going to play a big role in the Rockets' future success, it's all going to come back to the man getting him the ball. Lin may no longer be the flashy player he was for a brief time last season, but that's not a problem at all.
As long as he gets his targets the ball and helps set up the offense while maintaining a positive attitude, he'll maintain his role as leader in Houston.