Lin Bloodied but Explosive Off Bench in Rockets Season Opener

Technically Jeremy Lin didn’t start in the Rockets’ season opener Wednesday night, but he came off the bench to show that he is likely to remain the team’s go-to point guard.

Lin sat out just the first six minutes of the first quarter before making his presence felt in a surprisingly hard-fought first half of the 96-83 win over the past season’s last-place Charlotte Bobcats. Most of his action took place after he was forced to leave the game to get stitches to close off a bleeding gash on his chin.

In 31 minutes of play Lin shot 5 of 7 from the field, making both 3-point attempts. He also made 4 of 6 free throws to post 16 points and lead the Rockets in shooting efficiency for the night. Most importantly, Lin showed little hesitation about taking shots and exploding into the paint to create offense.

By contrast Beverly — Lin’s putative competition for the starting point-guard spot — injured his ribs early in the game and played only a bit over 10 minutes total, compiling 5 points, 1 assist and 2 turnovers. It’s too early in the season for Lin to put to rest the suggestion that Beverly may be the better starting point guard, but this game suggests Beverly may be more of a decoy starter who retains the burden of ousting Lin from the top spot and not the other way around as many pundits have been suggesting.

“I have known for a while, so it is not really a surprise for me,” Lin said before the game of Coach Kevin McHale’s decision to start Beverly for the season opener. “I need to control what I do when I am out there. I feel like I am beating a dead horse with some of the things I’m saying. Controlling what I can control and playing my brand of basketball when I’m out there and doing what’s best for us, for the team and running the second unit to the best of my ability.”

The Rockets’ win over Charlotte was paved by the 26 rebounds Dwight Howard pulled down, along with the 17 points he put up. James Harden was the game’s high-scorer with 21 points, followed by the Rockets’ 3-point specialist Francisco Garcia.

Last season Lin had to prove that he was more than a four-week wonder. This season he carries the burden of showing that he belongs on the same roster with Harden and Howard — two of the NBA’s biggest stars. This game got him off to a solid start toward accomplishing that task.