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Point Forward

Jeremy Lin off the bench? Rockets undecided on starting point guard

Jeremy Lin and Patrick BeverleyJeremy Lin (left) and Patrick Beverley have split the starting duties at point guard during the preseason. (Getty Images)

Jeremy Lin or Patrick Beverley? Rockets coach Kevin McHale isn't ready yet to name his starting point guard for Wednesday's regular-season opener against Charlotte.

"I have to submit my starting lineup around 5:45 on Wednesday,” McHale told the Houston Chronicle. “Things can always change.”

Beverley started four preseason games, including the last two, and Lin started three. Beverley averaged 9.1 points (on 50 percent shooting), 3.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.9 steals in 24.3 minutes, while Lin averaged 11.2 points (on 47.7 percent shooting), 3.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.7 steals in 24.7 minutes.

“Obviously, I would love to start,” Lin told the 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.”

Lin started all 82 games last season after signing a three-year, $25.1 million contract with the Rockets in July 2012. He averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists but saw his playing time cut at various points and often sat late in games. The 25-year-old Lin, who famously broke out with the Knicks during the 2011-12 season, admitted that he couldn’t eat or sleep at times last season, that he became “obsessed with trying to be Linsanity" and that he once cried before a game because he was worried that he would lose his starting job with Houston.

Beverley, 25, a 2009 second-round pick who had never played an NBA game before the 2012-13 season, emerged as a source of energy and defensive tenacity off the bench after joining the Rockets last January. He left a Russian team to sign a deal with the Rockets that will pay him $789,000 this year.

At SB Nation's Dream Shake, Patrick Harrel makes the case for why Beverley should start:

As much as Lin improved in terms of his shooting and ball control over the second half of last season, Beverley simply fits what the Rockets want to accomplish with their first unit better than Lin does. Lin is a more dynamic playmaker on offense, while Beverley is a much better complementary player, and with Dwight Howard and James Harden seeing a lot of the ball, the Rockets need to find a complementary point guard to start.

Both players are going to play similar amounts of minutes, so choosing a starter who works best with the first unit is the biggest consideration. In Beverley's case, his ability to be effective off-the-ball and disruptive on the defensive side of the ball makes him an ideal fit alongside James Harden.

On top of that, Lin would also likely be far more effective in a sixth man role. As the season wore on, Lin and Harden improved as a pair at the guard spots, but playing Lin alongside a ball-dominant guard nonetheless was never the best use of his skills. Lin thrives with the ball in his hands, and if you allow him consistent touches in the pick-and-roll, he will take advantage and score with ease. Contrast that with the time he spent as a starter, often ball-watching as Harden isolated against his man, and it's clear that a sixth man version of Lin could have a big year.

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