The most improved team in the Western Conference is ready to begin their quest to reach the NBA Finals. On Wednesday, the Houston Rockets make their 2013-2014 season debut in a contest with the Charlotte Bobcats.
Last year, Houston barely made the playoffs as the eighth seed and lost in the first round. Now, the Rockets are expected to be one of the top teams in the West, having made a few changes to their roster in the offseason. They made the biggest acquisition in all of free agency by signing Dwight Howard.
Jeremy Lin is still on the team and set to play in the first game, but it appears his role could be different in his second season with the club. In 2012-2013, Lin started every regular season game for Houston. Against the Bobcats, the point guard will come off the bench.
Head coach Kevin McHale didn't reveal the starting lineup at the end of the preseason, but Chandler Parsons broke the news to CSN Houston. In Lin’s place, second-year player Patrick Beverley will get the nod.
“I don’t know why it’s a big surprise,” Parsons said. “It’s the same as how the preseason ended.”
Lin started in three of the first four exhibition games, but came off the bench in the final two. The Rockets lost one game in the preseason and seemed to improve with Lin on the bench, defeating the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies by an average of 18 points. Lin averaged 11.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in six exhibition contests. Beverley averaged 9.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists, playing in all seven games.
Beverly’s ascension to the starting lineup could have been predicted by watching last season’s playoffs. After having only come off the bench during the regular season, the then-rookie started the final five games of Houston’s series with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He started alongside Lin in Games Two and Three, but took over as the sole point guard when Lin went down with an injury. Beverley was impressive in the postseason, doubling his scoring average and rebounds, as well as raising his field percentage.
“Obviously, I would love to start,” Lin told the Houston Chronicle. “I think every player would love to start, but I think given our current situation, being able to be an offensive spark off the bench, being able to be a primary ball handler in that second group are big things too. Coach and I and Pat have all talked. At the end of the day, we are all trying to do what’s right for the team. Egos aside, we are just trying to go out there and play. Who starts isn’t important.”
Coming off the bench may help Lin be more successful in his second season with the Rockets. In year No.1, Lin struggled to reach expectations that came with his three-year, $25 million contract. At times with the New York Knicks, he played like an All-Star. Lin was unable to duplicate that success in Houston.
At the height of “Linsanity,” the point guard was the primary ball handler and scorer on offense. In Houston’s starting lineup, James Harden is the No.1 option. As last season progressed, the two learned to play together, but Lin was still unable to reach his potential. Lin’s best game came when Harden was forced to sit out because of an injury. The Harvard grad scored 38 points and dished out seven assists, forcing the Spurs into overtime. When playing with the second unit, Lin will have more freedom to handle the ball and make plays.
The Rockets will have 81 more games after their contest with the Bobcats, so Lin could eventually make his way back into the starting five. Beverley, Harden, Parsons, Howard and Omir Asik are expected to be on the floor when Houston tips off against Charlotte.