The Rockets essentially chose Greg Smith over Jeremy Lin when it came down to making cuts in the preseason.
By now, you’re aware of the NBA sensation that has disguised itself as Jeremy Lin. The freshly-named Eastern Conference player of the week who averaged 27.3 points, 8.3 assists and 2.0 steals last week and has guided the once-hapless Knicks to five straight wins was living on his brother’s couch mere weeks ago. Now? Lin is the first player since 1976-77 to record 109 points in his first four career starts and is the first player in NBA history to post at least 20 points and seven assists in each of his four starts.
Now he has a mobile app for his own videos and news. Talk about overnight success.
So what does this have to do with the Rockets, you ask? Well, quite a lot. First off, the Rockets hold New York’s pick this year, so the more success the Knicks have, the deeper into the first round the Rockets will have to choose this summer on their behalf. The irony? Well, we all know Lin has almost single-handedly been responsible for New York’s turnaround. But what is interesting is he could easily be a Rocket right now.
Last week, SI.com’s Sam Amick thoroughly detailed Lin’s rise through the NBA in a story you can read here. Lin graduated from Harvard. He was an undrafted free agent who had a cup of coffee with the Warriors last season in a ploy that many thought to be a gimmick as a bone thrown to the area’s booming Asian population. Lin was cut by the Warriors this offseason when Golden State tried to clear money to sign restricted Clippers free agent Deandre Jordan to an offer sheet, which they did but the Clippers matched.
Lin caught on with the Rockets, whose own point guard stable wasn’t exactly booming with progress aside from Kyle Lowry and maybe the off-on nature of Goran Dragic. But the Rockets cut Lin when they decided to go after Samuel Dalembert. Lin was the team’s only non-guaranteed contract, but Jeff Adrien – an undersized power forward at 6-foot-7 full on intangibles but short on pure basketball skill – had a partially guaranteed deal and could have easily been cut as well, especially considering the Rockets didn’t have a need at power forward and could have used more insurance at point guard.
Here’s what Amick wrote in regard to the Rockets’ situation:
The Rockets made their own decision to waive Lin late on the night of Dec. 24 to clear room on the roster for free agent center Samuel Dalembert. General manager Daryl Morey admitted he regretted the move.
“We should have kept [Lin],” Morey wrote on his Twitter account on Thursday. “Did not know he was this good. Anyone who says they knew misleading U.”
According to a source close to the situation, Houston’s decision was debated heavily and made with great hesitation. While Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic had the point guard duties covered, and Lin was the natural selection to be dropped because he had the team’s only non-guaranteed contract, big man Jeff Adrien had a partially guaranteed contract and could have been the roster casualty instead. He was waived on Tuesday to make room for free agent center Greg Smith.
Both the Rockets and Warriors were hopeful that they could sign Lin again if he cleared waivers.
Two things of revelation from Amick’s article: 1) The fact that Rockets GM Daryl Morey publicly regretted the move (the fact that he says no one could have seen this coming is a bit questionable. It doesn’t take much to see that Lin can run a pick and roll very well and that he’s great at finding open shooters and penetrating defenses). 2) Adrien ended up being waived anyway, last week, for free agent center Greg Smith (whom I really do like). So, basically this comes down to Smith being here since Lin’s not, which doesn’t sound nearly so bad as Adrien being kept around instead of Lin. The Rockets do desperately lack size and strength inside, and Smith does add that. His future is promising.
It is what it is, right? I don’t believe for a second that the Rockets didn’t see that Lin had this in him. After all, Lin isn’t beating cupcakes. He’s tearing up the likes of Deron Williams, Devin Harris, John Wall and Ricky Rubio. It’s even harder to believe when you read in Amick’s article that the Warriors DEFINITELY knew he had this in him as they tried to assure the author that it was anything but a ploy.
Either way, it’s an unfortunate case for the Rockets. I believe Lin would be the second-best point guard on the team right now. His playmaking ability and quickness and poise is just too impressive. And it’s cruelly ironic that he may be what guides New York to the playoffs and a decent seed in the East, making their pick to the Rockets’ all but obsolete.
With all the questionable moves Morey has done since arriving with the Rockets in April 2006, this is right up there. He really has no excuse. And the Rockets may be the ones to have to pay for that.