The Houston Rockets, at some level, expected Jeremy Lin to be as good as he was for the New York Knicks during his short ‘Linsanity’ phase. But the point guard isn’t that good of a basketball player to put up those numbers for a whole season. He’s a good enough player to do well in the league and with his current stock of teammates despite not hitting that level of being in the zone for more than a few nights a year.
It was weird for Lin as much as it was weird for those watching from the side; those two weeks in the middle of February, in which he averaged 26.8 points and 8.5 assists during the first six games of the craze, and scored at least 20 points on nine of his 10 first games as an overnight star.
Crashing down to real life in Houston wasn’t easy for him, knowing the overblown expectations from him and the disappointment among some in the staff from him. The problem wasn’t just Lin not being Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose in his ability to put up a 25-8 stat line each night; the Rockets never put him in a situation that allowed him to score that many points and be that dominant with the ball. It might not have been the most beneficial thing for the team in any case, but it’s not just about Lin.
The Houston Rockets never put Lin in a situation that allows him to succeed at that ‘Linsanity’ level. He wasn’t just being put in as a facilitator while James Harden is the untouchable star of the show; they turned Lin into a spot-up shooter, something that doesn’t really fall in with his skill set.
There’s a lot of talk about Linsanity recently because of the Documentary on Lin, focusing on that time in his life. But Linsanity, and Lin being that kind of point guard, are gone. He should have an easier time playing to his strengths this season because of how the Houston Rockets will change their play to focus on Dwight Howard, taking the ball out of Harden’s hand. It should be better for Lin in terms of giving him the ball more, but it won’t suddenly make him into a superstar kind of point guard.
Lin isn’t that kind of player. There are those who call him a developing Steve Nash. Maybe that’s reaching a bit, although Nash needed almost 10 years in the league before someone realized just how good he can be with the keys to the kingdom given to him by Phoenix. Lin is playing with two All-Star players that won’t enable that kind of statistical growth, but do bring him the opportunity to shine as a passer and ball handler, if McHale actually follows the instructions of how to play winning basketball with this team, which he seldom did last season. It’s much easier just giving the ball to Harden and hoping for the best.
Lin had his moments last season – he had 16 games of 20 points or more, including a 38-point performance against the San Antonio Spurs and some strong stretches in December, February and March. However, expecting Lin to play like a point guard who thinks about scoring first is putting the wrong ideas in your head. Expecting him to play to the best of his abilities without putting the ball in his hands is another thing the Rockets did wrong last season, but still have a chance to rectify their mistake.