Linsanity Revisits New York

Madison Square Garden gave a rousing ovation to former Knicks guard Jeremy Lin as he returned to New York draped in a Rockets jersey. The cheers turned into boos, as Lin put on a show against his former team.

Lin finished the night with 22 points, eight assists, two steals, four rebounds, and a 109-96 Rockets win.

The first two points of the game were scored by Lin, and he never looked back.

The Rockets were coming off a bad loss in Toronto that saw Lin score a woeful seven points, in 32 minutes. It almost felt like his mind was in New York, and the Raptors game was just in his way.

Judging from his performance tonight, “Linsanity” was well prepared. In just his first 10 minutes back at “MSG,” Lin racked up eight points, and three assists, as the ovations quickly turned into boos.

By halftime Lin had 16 points, four assists, and two rebounds. That was his best first half of the season as a Houston Rocket.

For a guy who was averaging a measly 9.6 points per game, and shooting below 40% on the season, Lin proved why he could be a long term starting point guard for this young Rockets team. He proved that under a pressure filled situation, he once again could rise up and accept the challenge, as he did game after game with the Knicks last season.

Another thorn in the backside of the Rockets has been the chemistry between James Harden, and Lin. While Harden has individually found success, the two have not found a comfortable balance yet. Tonight was a huge step forward.

Lin and Harden combined for 50 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists, and two steals. Tonight proved the potential this backcourt has, along with the quest for consistency.

“We complemented each other really well,” Lin told the media. “It is important for us to be aggressive and pick our spots.”

The win ended a seven-game road losing streak for the Rockets. It also was the first home loss of the season for the Knicks, ending what could have been an 11-0 home start, the best since the 1991-92 season.

The Rockets have swept the season series against the Knicks, and continue to hover around the .500 mark, as the playoffs remain the goal for the youngest team in the NBA.

Patrick Patterson Sidelined

Houston Rockets forward Patrick Patterson will unexpectedly be sidelined, after a MRI was performed Saturday morning.

The results were not favorable, as tests showed Patterson has a bone bruise in his right foot.

The brawny forward is averaging 13.2 points per game, along with 4.8 rebounds.  The physicality that Patterson possesses certainly doesn’t match the low rebound numbers, but his defensive significance is important to this young Rockets team.

While Patterson has yet to have a double figure rebounding game this season, he did have a strong offensive stretch in the final seven games of November.

Patterson and the Rockets coaching staff have tried to capitalize on his ability to stretch the floor this season, much like he did during his collegiate career with Kentucky. So far that experiment has been a work in progress. Patterson has already attempted 42 three pointers, and made just 14 of them.

During his absence, swing-forward Marcus Morris is expected to earn the starting nod. Morris had a strong offensive stretch in mid-November, and starting minutes may spark a similar performance.

Morris is currently a mystery for the Rockets. The goal is to maximize his potential, and the question is at what position? Is he a small forward, or a power forward?

The term “tweener” is frequently used now in basketball. While it’s a huge plus to have a versatile player, the certainty of what position the player can succeed in most, is always a battle. With Morris possibly seeing extending starting minutes, the answer may not be far.

The Rockets are also expected to recall Terrence Jones from D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, and expect him to be with the team for a matinee meeting tomorrow against the Raptors.

Patrick Patterson will go through additional tests in the coming days, no timetable for his return is set.

Kevin McHale’s Daughter Passes

Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale’s daughter Alexandra “Sasha” McHale passed away on Saturday at the young age of 22.

McHale has been on a leave of absence since Nov. 10. His daughter “Sasha” had been battling Lupus, a collection of autoimmune diseases, in which the human immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissues.

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander issued a statement regarding the McHale family.

“I extend my deepest condolences to Kevin and Lynn for the loss of their beautiful daughter, Sasha, on Saturday afternoon,” Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said on a statement on Sunday. ” Kevin and Lynn are loving and dedicated parents who will need our continued support throughout this very difficult time.  Our entire organization is mourning the McHale family’s loss and we ask that you keep them in your thoughts and prayers.”

The Rockets organization, and Rockets fans mourn the loss the McHale family is facing today, and will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.

Where Is Royce White?

Daryl Morey the general manager of the Houston Rockets issued a statement earlier today on Rockets player Royce White.

“Royce is not available right now, Morey said. We are committed to his long term success and we will continue to support him now and going forward.”

White was a no show on Monday night when the Rockets narrowly lost to the Miami Heat. He has also missed practices and the Rockets have neither fined, nor mentioned if White will be excused for these absences.

It was reported after Monday’s game that the Rockets would be sending Scott Machado, Donatas Motiejunas, and Royce White down to the NBA Development League.

According to the Houston Chronicle, White did not attend Tuesday’s practice with the Rockets, and nobody seems to know why. At this point the Rockets have not commented on White’s participation in the D-League, but have made contact with Machado and Motiejunas.

As many already know, White suffers from an anxiety disorder that has forced the Rockets to communicate differently when commenting on White. They have continued to stick by him, and are working closely in an effort to further progress White’s career in the NBA.

It’s an odd situation that has fans completely perplexed. Royce has yet to play this season, and has been put on the inactive list multiple times already.

When Rockets forward Marcus Morris was asked if he had spoken to White about his own D-League experience, Morris exclaimed White had not been in practice for at least three days.

Since White hasn’t been a part of the rotation yet, the distraction may not be as severe as one may expect.

It will be important for White to straighten out his issues, and play significant minutes in the D-League. It’s an essential time for progression, and White has already missed one week of training camp, and several days of practice.

It’s unclear if anxiety has anything to do with the latest disappearing act by White, but the Rockets will continue to find chemistry with or without his services.

The owner of the Rockets, Mr. Leslie Alexander was not shy about sharing his thoughts on the Royce White situation, as he addressed the media.

“If he doesn’t work out, it’s tough to lose a draft choice.”

The Wandering Beard

As Thunder GM Sam Presti was watching his former sixth man run circles around the Pistons, I suspect he had a moment of recoil. At least he should have.

Keep in mind that as the Lakers struggle to 0-10 (including preseason) much like the Heat struggled a couple of years ago, NBA analysts around the country emphasize that a team needs time to “gel”. And while I don’t doubt the acumen or insider expertise of any of these former players and coaches, I did just watch James Harden turn into “Big Game” James and drop a LeBron James like stat line without ever having played with any of the current Rockets.

James Harden came off the bench last year and regularly sparked the Thunder to victories. He was a burst of energy that the other team rarely saw coming, and often had no answer for. Standing 6’5” and 230lbs, Harden has prototypical size for his position and is one of the best athletes in the NBA. If he had LeBron’s size I could make a case for him possibly growing into the best in the game. He drives the ball with raw power and swift feet. He shoots the ball with a silky release and a confident follow-through. He’s already one of the most intelligent players with the ball in his hands. And he is COLD BLOODED.

Now, none of this is news to Sam Presti. So why get rid of him? Money, money, money. He saw Harden was in line for the type of deal he got from Houston and simply could not fit that into the Thunder’s current budget. The key word there being “current”. Durant, Westbrook and Perkins are all locked up to big deals and Harden’s deal would have meant another $30 mil in luxury tax.

I get that, but here’s the thing: Would you rather have Westbrook or Harden signed to a max deal?

Russell Westbrook is one of the best talents in the NBA and there is absolutely no disputing that. But he is a little behind the curve from the neck up. He fires wild, wayward passes; often turning the ball over more than 7 or 8 times in a game. Most possessions that begin with the ball in his hands end that way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen him dribble the ball up, then just pull up from 15 feet. That’s great when you make 70% of them, but that seems to be happening less and less. Meanwhile, the best scorer in the game goes possession after possession without touching the rock. My biggest problem with him is he clearly thinks he’s a better player than Durant. That’s not a strategy conducive to winning.

Presti could have, and in my opinion should have dumped Westbrook on a team for a good young point guard who is years away from a big payday or a veteran who can be an extension of Scott Brooks on the floor. Even Harden himself would have been an excellent solution at point guard.

But c’est la vie, Presti decided to hold on to one of the more volatile personalities in the NBA and dumped his 23-year-old Sixth Man of the Year.

My second problem here is the haul he got for Harden. Presti brings in Kevin Martin, who was a good scorer in Houston, but who else was going to score for them? Martin is a solid talent, moves off the ball well and has a good, albeit funky-looking jumper, but he has been apathetic to coaching in the past.

My big problem is after that they landed Jeremy Lamb and three draft picks. Picking in the NBA draft can truly be a lottery experience. The Thunder have drafted well, yes, but there is also a lot of luck involved in that. They could have easily ended up with Greg Oden, OJ Mayo and Hasheem Thabeet (who is ironically on the team this year) in the drafts that netted them Durant, Westbrook and Harden.

Obviously, only Presti knows what other offers were out there, but I can’t believe he got all he could for a man on the verge of becoming one of the best shooting guards in the NBA. If anyone had to go, Westbrook should have been the guy here. Only time will tell of course, but I seriously doubt any of the other teams in the West are sad to see Durant and Harden split up. They could have been a new generation Jordan-Pippen.

I’m afraid in the next five years Durant will have to endure some serious frustration with Westbrook and that this could end in tragedy for OKC.