The Knicks will wrap up a mini three-game west coast trip tonight when they take on the Rockets in Houston. The Rockets have the league’s top scorer in James Harden who is averaging 24.5 points per game through the early part of the season (just fractions ahead of Carmelo Anthony), but the bigger and more obvious storyline coming into tonight’s matchup is Jeremy Lin’s first game against the team that helped put him on the map last season.
The biggest decision the Knicks had to make last season was whether or not they were going to retain Lin, who burst onto the scene last year when he averaged 24.4 points to lead the Knicks on a seven-game win streak. You can attribute Lin’s success last season to whatever you want (there was no film on the guy, they played a weak schedule, there was no Carmelo Anthony, etc.), but you cannot deny that he played extremely well and helped Mike D’Antoni keep his job for the time being. The Knicks decided (wisely) to not match the lucrative offer Lin received from the Rockets, and instead brought in three new point guards to help anchor the backcourt.
Coming into the season Raymond Felton declared he was the better point guard than Jeremy Lin, and so far has done just about everything to prove that. He is averaging 15.7 points per game to go along with 6.9 assists, compared to Lin’s 10 ppg and 6.3 assists. Felton is also shooting 10% better from the field. Felton without a doubt came into this season with a chip on his shoulder having to answer to all the Jeremy Lin fanatics who thought the Knicks made the wrong decision in letting him go. The Knicks also brought in Kidd and Prigioni to help anchor the backcourt, providing them with guard depth that they did not have last year. Kidd currently ranks 17th in the league in PER at 22.62, and Prigioni has been a formidable floor general with the second unit.
The defense at the guard position is also much improved with the new additions. Lin was a turnstile last year and has been exposed early on this year with his on the ball defense. While I think Lin can be a solid point guard in this league, he’d be the first one to tell you he has some things he needs to improve on. I think Felton still has that chip on his shoulder, and will come out tonight with a lot of intensity and attack Lin. He is quicker and stronger than Lin, and I’d like to see him utilize the pick and roll, something that gave Lin fits defensively last season with the Knicks. I look for Felton to have a very nice game tonight as the Knicks look to avoid consecutive losses for the first time this season.
Follow Brian on Twitter @bcoles1029