Jeremy Lin: PG's Role as James Harden's Sidekick Benefits Houston Rockets

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Jeremy Lin: PG's Role as James Harden's Sidekick Benefits Houston Rockets
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Through three games, the Houston Rockets are 2-1, and Jeremy Lin has averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game. Those are good numbers, but they pale in comparison to James Harden's 35.3 points, 6.3 assists and 6.3 rebounds (with a remarkable 33.31 PER).

Two things are becoming clear for Houston: Harden came to be the lead dog and prove the doubters wrong, and Lin's role as his potential sidekick bodes well for his overall game, the Rockets' chances this season and the entire NBA.

Let's face it: Lin was set up for failure in Houston. He signed a hefty, back-loaded contract of three years for $25 million—a deal that will net him $14.8 million in the third year of the deal.

With an extremely young roster, headlined by Kevin Martin, it was looking like Lin was going to have to do it himself for most of the season. Nothing against Martin, but he is one of the league's most notorious do-it-yourself shooters.

The ball would be in Lin's hands 80 percent of the time. Houston's success would have centered around his ability to be the savior for 82 games, something he did for just 25 in New York.

Enter James Harden.

Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE
Still fearing the beard, people.

The reigning Sixth Man of the Year Award winner has energized and revitalized a Rockets offense built around its new point guard. Averaging roughly a third of his team's points, Harden's ability to create off the dribble in both the paint and the mid-range game this season has reminded folks why he was the No. 3 overall selection in the 2009 NBA draft.

Harden's success has more than one purpose right now. Aside from helping Houston win games and dispel league-wide theories that he wasn't prepared to handle a No. 1 role after his performance in the 2012 NBA Finals, Harden is also helping to take the pressure off of Lin.

Linsanity was a worldwide craze. Lin appeals to both the American market and the international market, and he was doing things in Madison Square Garden that no one had ever seen before.

He and Carmelo Anthony willed the New York Knicks to the playoffs last season, and it would have been interesting to see what kind of impact he would have had in the first-round series loss to the Miami Heat.

The success and the hype coupled to give Lin the best contract of his young career—one that certainly scared off the Knicks from countering the offer. That makes Lin a marked man in Houston.

Those kinds of expectations were unfair for a player with only 25 career starts, but Lin was prepared to take the brunt of any criticism the team received if they didn't live up to unrealistic expectations in the loaded Western Conference.

With Harden, Lin can step back and play his game. Harden is used to being the man; he had the ball in his hands down the stretch on numerous occasions for the Thunder.

 

Better yet, Harden is a playmaker at heart. He doesn't have to be in an isolation set to score points. His ability to finish at the rim while also distributing to teammates is a quality that he and Lin share.

He and Lin also share in doing what's best for this Rockets team. Right now, Harden is logging heavy minutes; he is the main source of offense for a team that probably didn't expect to be 2-1.

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His role as the No. 1 guy is giving the Rockets the best chance to win.

When Lin is called upon to take over that role, he'll be ready. This timeshare of stardom in the backcourt has given Kevin McHale options on a nightly basis. If Harden is struggling, Lin is the next choice to help pick up the slack.

His experience in a major media market while having extreme success is a valuable asset. Now that he doesn't have the huge monkey of Houston fully on his back, he can relax and play turnover-free basketball.

It certainly helps that Harden's start is among the best in NBA history. But Lin is no slouch, and he and Harden now combine for one of the NBA's deadliest backcourts.

Sidekick or not.

 

Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team.


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