Jeremy Lin's Benching the Latest Sign Young PG Is in over His Head

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJanuary 20, 2013

Jan 19, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin (7) battles for the ball with Minnesota Timberwolves forward Mickael Gelabale (15) during the fourth quarter at the Target Center. Timberwolves won 92-79. Mandatory Credit:  Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Lin is in over his head.

Actually, the entire Houston Rockets team, save for James Harden, is in over its head. But none more so than Lin.

Houston is riding a seven-game losing streak, one marked by aggregate offensive struggles, continued poor defense and, now, another Lin benching.

Heading into the third quarter of the Rockets' 13-point loss to a decimated Minnesota Timberwolves team, Houston head coach Kevin McHale benched three of his starters—including Lin.

Convocational foul trouble forced McHale to reinsert Lin, but per Jonathan Feigan of Ultimate Rockets, the message was clear:

When McHale tried his makeshift lineup—“I just wanted to get a little spark, just try something different,” he said.—the Rockets opened the half missing all seven shots with five turnovers in four minutes.

“We’re not getting easy baskets anymore,” McHale said. “We’re not running hard. We’re so out of character right now. Turnovers. Guys are open. We’re not hitting them. We’re really in a funk. We have to get ourselves out of it, and we will.”

Though McHale's unyielding optimism is endearing, are the Rockets going to be able to get themselves out of it with Lin?

Belittling Lin's potential is futile, because it's there. He's a deft rim attacker with sufficient court vision and a transitional savant. Yet what he's expected to be doing in Houston is nowhere near what he's capable of accomplishing.

Simply put, Lin isn't a savior. Or a superstar sidekick for James Harden. Or a star in general. And it shows.

On the season, the point guard is averaging just 12.2 points and 6.1 assists on 42.5 percent shooting. His 28.1-percent three-point clip is laughable, and the Rockets are actually scoring at a higher rate when he's off the floor.

That the latter is even a possibility is agonizing. Floor generals are supposed to be offensive catalysts; presences who jump-start, facilitate and enhance their team's scoring potential, not suppress it.

But that's exactly what Lin has done. Defenses have memorized his strong-side penetration playbook, and he's been less than effective as a result.

During the seven-game skid, Lin has eclipsed the 12-point plateau just once, shot better than 46.2 percent from the field just once and dished out more than five assists twice. The very nature of his livelihood—driving, kicking, scoring—has been rendered a non-factor, and the already corpulent burden Harden is carrying has now worsened. No wonder the offensively inclined Rockets have been held to fewer than 100 points in four of their last seven games.

Even worse, there's nothing to suggest that Lin is prepared to turn his shortcomings—or the Rockets' collective infirmities—around. 


Because he is one of their vulnerabilities. One of their biggest ones, in fact.

Remember, prior to Harden's arrival, Houston was Lin's team. He was the one the Rockets were supposed to build around. And to that end, not much has changed.

Houston is still attempting to build around the budding duo of Harden and Lin, but it's become irrefutably clear that Lin is not someone you assemble a roster around in any capacity.

As a complementary piece, he's potentially useful. But as a cornerstone? Not so much.

Yet that's what he's supposed to be. That's the standard he is currently being held to. And it's a standard that has proven unrealistic, bordering on crippling.

Lin isn't a guy you want taking the last shot. He isn't someone you want to have the ball with the game on the line. His predictable on-court stylings aren't going to consistently open things up for the Rockets or consistently lead them to victory.

For the youngest team in the NBA to be toiling with a playoff berth is promising. Much of Houston's success thus far has been in spite of Lin, though.

It's no mere coincidence that when trying to create a "spark" when urging his team to climb out from the depths of obscurity, McHale benched Lin. Harden has been struggling as well, but it was Lin who was benched in an attempt to find a successful medium.

That means something—it means everything.

If the Rockets truly believed that Lin was one of their tickets out of this current hole they've dug, he wouldn't be riding the pine to start the half of a game Houston sorely needed to win. 

Yes, the Rockets have been failing as a faction. At the heart of this combine, at the heart of such failures, is Lin.

The same Lin who was brought in to help steer this franchise in the right direction. The same Lin who was supposed to help turn the Rockets' fortunes around.

And the same Lin who has failed to do so, who has crumbled under the weight of whimsical presumptions.


Lin himself isn't the most pressing of quandaries currently unraveling in Houston—it's the sudden realization that Lin is not the player the Rockets thought he was.