Found July 18, 2012 on
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HOUSTON -- It was a throwaway comment, one easy to disregard given the context in which it was made and the frequency with which Rockets coach Kevin McHale delivers sardonic statements.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey had failed in his draft-week maneuverings to acquire Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard, and on draft night the Rockets selected three players born in the early 1990s planning to add them to a roster already hamstrung by inexperience.
Justifiably, McHale was asked how he planned to integrate so many youngsters, and almost flippantly he declared that the Rockets would run more. Given, at that point in time, the difficulty of predicting how his roster would be constructed come training camp, the easiest conclusion to draw was that McHale offered what came to mind quickest. The Rockets are young, so they'll play up-tempo basketball. It was concise.
Feasibility entered the picture on Tuesday night. Now that former Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin has officially rejoined the Rockets, his three-week stretch of unexpected brilliance last February dubbed "Linsanity" provides a blueprint on why the Rockets might run more.
Beyond the hysteria and hyperbole, Lin proved during his abbreviated run of superstardom that his isolation skills and pull-up jumper were legitimately comparable to the best backcourt players in the NBA. That the sample size was small doesn't render the following facts moot: Of the 102 players who attempted at least 90 jumpers off the dribble last season, only noted marksmen Stephen Curry (52.9 percent) and Steve Nash (48.5 percent) shot a higher percentage than Lin (47.9 percent). Also, Lin ranked third in scoring on isolation plays among players with at least 75 such plays last season, trailing only Clippers star point guard Chris Paul and Thunder sixth man extraordinaire James Harden.
The Rockets' reliance on pick-and-roll sets was derived largely from the pick-and-roll skills of their point guards, Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic. With both gone -- Lowry to Toronto, Dragic to Phoenix -- it would stand to reason that McHale should be duly inspired to alter his offense to suit his personnel. Primary to that adjustment is Lin who, with only 25 starts on his ledger, needs a scheme tailor-made to his talent to render results.
The process won't manifest without difficulty. The Rockets actually were a more efficient offensive team than the Knicks, ranking 12th by scoring 102.8 points per 100 possessions, a full point above the league average. The Knicks ranked 19th at 101.4 points per 100 possessions, and that was with reputed offensive guru Mike D'Antoni orchestrating from the bench (before his ouster) and Lin running the on-court show.
Knicks fans could point to the disconnect between Lin and Carmelo Anthony plus the subsequent elevation of assistant Mike Woodson as drags on their efficiency, but McHale should exercise caution before mimicking what D'Antoni first installed in Phoenix before later utilizing in New York in an attempt to present Lin greater comfort. The Rockets need a system that takes full advantage of their overhauled roster, something that maximizes playmaking forwards Chandler Parsons, Royce White and Terrance Jones (the latter two showcased as unselfish revelations during summer league), as well as the assertive Lin.
With five of the seven players who scored at least 500 points in 2011-12 for the Rockets gone and a sixth (Kevin Martin) likely to follow at some point in the future, the moment is ripe for change. If McHale longs to reshape his offensive approach, adding Lin can expedite that decision.
On the surface the easiest suggestion is for the Rockets to run with impunity, with Lin dribbling to holes in the defense where his isolation abilities and pull-up jumper enabled him to thrive as a second-year breakout. But the revelation of what they should be is more complex. Now that the Rockets have a point guard in the fold, with Lin filling their chasm, the possibilities for an exciting brand of offense have increased. When McHale is again asked what lies ahead, his answer will be clearer.
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