The Rockets are a young team, but they are clearly without leadership. As young players seek to find a role and time on the court, the two most prominent players on the roster, James Harden and Jeremy Lin, have apparently stepped up to help them.
In his story for the Houston Chronicle, Jonathan Feigen reports on how Lin and Harden helped Terrence Jones keep his confidence up while playing in the D-League earlier this season:
Less than a week after Jones returned from the NBA Development League and earned a place in the Rockets' power forward rotation, Jones said that Lin had sent text messages to him and other Rockets players sent to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers frequently throughout their time in the D-League.
"He texted me after almost every game, especially if I did good," Jones said. "I texted him after his games, too, when I was down there. I talked to James (Harden) after almost every game. A lot of guys checked with me, but J-Lin especially. J-Lin was always texting everybody. J-Lin texted me every game pretty much every time I went down.
"It definitely helped to know he was watching, my teammates were cheering for me to do well down there. It means a lot."
Lin said he made a point to keep up with the play of his teammates in the D-League and to let them know they had not been forgotten.
"I've been in those shoes before," Lin said. "I know what it's like. A little something like that, keeping up with them, making sure they feel a part of the team, and giving them that confidence, I think that's really important for their growth as a player. I think for me, I still remember the D-League like yesterday. I still try to encourage them. Anything I can do to help them, I try to do."
Jones now appears to be challenging for a spot in the starting lineup, and the (relative) veteran influence certainly could not have hurt. And though Lin and Harden's role in Jones' development was important, the bigger story here is Lin and Harden's growth as leaders on this young team.
The two, just 23 and 24 years old, entered this season with just 32 starts between them and were forced into the limelight on a team most expected to be in the lottery for the fourth year in a row. Some six months later, they are frontmen for the NBA's most exciting club and seem poised to challenge anyone in the first round in the Western Conference.
After watching young teams like the Kings toil for years without a true leader, seeing two of them step up on this roster is a huge development. Let's hope they're here to stay.