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Lou Williams’ true value to the Rockets

He can score, sure. But his main job is Beard-related.

NBA: Houston Rockets at New Orleans Pelicans Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday night, without a practice under his belt and no plays in his head, the Houston Rockets newest acquisition Lou Williams went out and hung a team-high 27 points on the New Orleans Pelicans in only 25 minutes of play.

"Only shoot if he touches it," Mike D'Antoni said after the game when asked what he told Williams to prepare him for the game.

And shoot Williams did. Right after checking for the first time as a Rocket, he made back to back corner three-pointers with a hand in his face. He would end up shooting 7/11 on the night from downtown.

Welcome to the era of LOU!

The 27-point outburst was great, and no doubt Williams will provide his fair share of 20 point-plus games while he is donning the Rockets red, white and occasional black. But the real benefit from having Williams around is he will provide James Harden some much-needed rest.

Thursday night, Harden passed the ball to Williams for those magical first two shots. Then, he spent most of his night cheering Williams on from the bench.

Certainly, no one is more excited to have Williams around than Harden.

On the season Harden has played the MOST minutes in the NBA and is averaging 36.6 minutes a game. Mike D'Antoni, a few times this season, has mentioned that he wants to play Harden fewer minutes and he wants to get him rest.

The problem for D'Antoni was his team didn't really have anyone to take Harden’s place, so he could only rest for short spurts.

This has been a problem for years, and while the Rockets did upgrade the bench this past offseason by getting Eric Gordon, he's more of a sharpshooter than he is someone that Houston wants running the offense for long stretches.

Now with Williams, the bench also has mini version of Harden, someone that can run pick and rolls, make the right reads and score the ball.

Williams Thursday night allowed Harden to sit and relax on the bench. Harden played a few seconds short of 30 minutes, something that's only happened four times this season.

Harden playing only 29 minutes a game going forward is probably pie in the sky — and wouldn’t be great for his MVP chances, either — but the days of 36-38 minutes a game should be gone.

Williams is going to give the Rockets’ plenty of scoring and playmaking this season and next, but perhaps his biggest contribution to the team won't be in the box score, it will be keeping Harden fresh.