Culture / Sporting Life

Jeremy Lin Gets Star Chance With East’s Mini Warriors, While the Rockets Only Fool Themselves With Carmelo

Four Years After Morey’s Diss Job, Justice Looms

BY // 07.30.18

Daryl Morey once lusted after Carmelo Anthony so fervently that he put up a giant mural of Melo wearing Jeremy Lin’s No. 7 Rockets jersey at the Toyota Center. Lin — who was still under contract to the Rockets at that point — took offense to the bush league disrespect slap and several weeks of controversy ensued.

Of course, even with the mural, Anthony never took Houston seriously as a destination at that point.

Now, four years later, Morey finally has his Melo (albeit a much diminished, older Melo) and Lin is on his fourth team since leaving the Rockets.

Still, after all these years, moves and frustrations, one fundamental truth remains. Jeremy Lin will help his new team much more than Carmelo Anthony helps his.

Lin gets a chance to play with the Eastern Conference’s Mini Wanna Be Warriors, aka the Atlanta Hawks. No, the Hawks do not have any of Golden State’s talent. But they will be running a Warriors-like system, one that builds guards into stars. Atlanta does not just have the Warriors former assistant GM Travis Schlenk running the show, they even stole Stephen Curry and Co’s distinctive spiky blond haired trainer Chelsea Lane, who’s gotten more TV time the last few years than any of the Hawks’ actual players.

If he’s healthy, this is an ideal situation for Lin. He gets to play in a guard-geared offense with a young shooter besides him in rookie Trae Young rather than compete for minutes in a muddled Brooklyn Nets backcourt.

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I don’t understand the angst many of Lin’s devoted fans are expressing over him getting traded away by the Nets. From the minute Brooklyn acquired D’Angelo Russell, Lin’s future in Gotham’s hippest borough was in serious doubt.

Now, he goes to a Hawks team that uses its point guards like actual point guards. Jeremy Lin will have the ball in his hands much more with Atlanta.

On the other hand, Anthony goes to a Rockets team were he’ll have the ball less than ever as he competes under the pressure of playing for much more. It won’t be all Anthony’s fault if the Rockets take a giant step back this season as most realistic NBA observers expect. (Bill Simmons goes as far as forecasting Houston will have 12 fewer wins.)

But Anthony will draw plenty of the blame.

Sure, this 34-year-old version of Melo is not costing the Rockets or their billionaire owner Tilman Fertitta much financially. But Anthony has proven to be as hard to work with as Walter White over the years.

Mike D’Antoni Deserves Better

Morey foisting Anthony on Mike D’Antoni — the coach who saved the Rockets and their ever hyped general manager — again is one of the great crimes against coaching. D’Antoni may be the most forgiving person in professional sports, but that still does not make this anything close to a smart move for Houston.

D’Antoni’s brilliance at making almost any combination of players work could negate a good share of any potential dysfunction. But Houston’s best championship window still may have already closed. The Rockets would have beaten Golden State with a healthy Chris Paul in the Western  Conference Finals.

But those particular Warriors and Rockets teams will never exist again.

Golden State added DeMarcus Cousins, giving them an all-star big man, the renewed challenge that any defending champion needs and a revitalized mission. The Rockets lost Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, but it’s not so much what they lost as much as what they didn’t gain.

Ariza is not a crippling departure — no matter what some claim. It’s the only adding Anthony that is the problem.

Golden State’s better. Oklahoma City is better with a recommitted Paul George and a new young playmaker in 24-year-old Dennis Schroder, the Hawks’ ex head case. The Los Angeles Lakers are much better with LeBron James, though still not anywhere close to a championship contender.

The Rockets, in contrast, are at best, running in place. And they’re doing it by adding a diminished player who still thinks he’s a star.

It’s funny how things work out.

Four years later, Morey gets his Melo. Only, he’s adding the type of inefficient player that analytics-driven organizations like the Rockets are supposed to know to avoid. It’s almost like Morey is suddenly taking advice from Charles Barkley.

Carmelo Anthony Rockets
Carmelo Anthony is anything but the Houston Rockets’ savior.

Four years later, Jeremy Lin ends up on another team, almost starting over at age 29 after a major injury.  He’ll be on a team that loses a ton of games, but he’ll have every chance to show he can still be a force. Lin will not be stuck in Kenny Atkinson’s offense anymore.

Houston now has two fourths of that old Banana Boat dream, but a 33-year-old Chris Paul and a 34-year-old Carmelo Anthony make for a rudderless vessel without the ship’s ultimate captain, LeBron.

Jeremy Lin will have every chance to exceed expectations, Carmelo Anthony will have every chance to disappoint.

Maybe, there is such a thing as delayed justice in the NBA.

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