Struggling Lin Ready To Face Knicks

HOUSTON Jeremy Lin knows very well the kind of headlines that he’d be waking up to each morning if he were putting up the same numbers in New York.

Lincompetent.

Linadequate.

Linept.

Less than a month into his first full season away from the Linsanity of last February, Lin is averaging just 10 points per game and shooting only 33.3 percent for the Rockets.

“I’ve only started about 36 or 37 games in three years,” he said. “There are sophomores in the league with a lot more experience than me. So in a lot of ways that takes pressure off. It makes it easier.

“I’m very happy in Houston. It’s really low key. When I walk around, I don’t have to wear a hat or glasses or anything, unless I want to.”

Of course, that stark contrast in lifestyle that he enjoys today would not have been possible without that over-the-top experience of being the Knicks’ starter last February. If Lin didn’t reinvent the game while ringing up 38 points against Kobe Bryant one night, breaking the hearts of the Raptors with a game-winning jumper on Valentine’s night and scoring more points (136) in his first five starts than any player since the NBA merger in 1976-77, he at least gave the fans that jammed into Madison Square Garden a different way of enjoying it.

“It was a whole lot at once,” he said. “It’s overwhelming and at times it feels like it’s going to swallow you up. That’s why I had to eventually kind of shut down in terms of the outside world and just saw my family and my closest friends and that’s it. There was a lot of outside noise I was trying to tune out.”

Now the noise is back, at least for a night. Lin lines up against the Knicks (8 p.m. ET, League Pass) for the first time since they cut him loose by failing to match the three-year, $25-million free agent contract he was offered by the Rockets.

“God has a perfect plan and this is where He wants me to be,” Lin said. “He wants me here. I know that and it’s why I’m so thankful to be here. It’s a different challenge and a different kind of experience from what I went through in New York, but it’s exciting.”

It will be a return to the Big Apple media maw as every dribble, pass and shot will be compared to Raymond Felton, the Knicks’ current point guard. The measurement will be sharpened by the fact that the Knicks sport the NBA’s best record (8-2) and Felton has been solid, averaging 13.4 points and 6.7 assists per game.

However, Lin places no added significance on his New York return and maintains that he sought out this return date when the schedule came out.

“I haven’t looked at the schedule, still haven’t,” he said. “That’s just something that I never do. I look at our first game and then I leave it like that. People text me. I think I play in New York on Dec 17. My friends texted me.

“It’s a different team over there and we’re a different team over here. So it’s gonna be fun getting on the court with some of my friends, but playing against them.

“I’m just gonna play, keep playing. It’s a blessing … It’s a reminder to be thankful for everything I have. I’m gonna go out there on Friday and play my heart out and just try to approach it the same. Play my heart out and be OK with the results whatever they may be, trusting in God.”

But after his flamboyant arrival onto the scene nine months ago, which swept across the league (and an ocean due to his Taiwanese heritage), Lin knows that the intense scrutiny will not leave.

“I think I’ve come to accept and get used to that,” he said. “It’s one of those things, it comes with the territory. Good game, bad game, there’s gonna be a lot of people watching and talking and guessing.

Mike D’Antoni, the ex-Knicks coach who turned him loose in New York, now leads the Lakers.

Carmelo Anthony, who clearly couldn’t co-exist with Lin as the primary ballhandler last season, is now lauded as a gracious team player and forceful leader.

Meanwhile, the youthful 5-7 Rockets — like Lin himself — are still working to carve out their identity in the league.

While the Rockets’ franchise got a boost from the trade that landed it shooting guard James Harden days before the season opener, nobody like felt the move more than Lin. Up to that point, the team had been plastering his image on every billboard around town, setting him up as both the face of the franchise and the target of derision if he could not recreate the “Linsanity.”

But Harden made his Houston debut with eye-popping games, new center Omer Asik moved into his first year as a starter and established himself as double-double producer and second-year forward Chandler Parsons has kept things interesting with his energy. All of which has left Lin something of a shadow in which to grow.

In failing to find his range — which includes an abysmal 22.9 percent from 3-point land — Lin has made half his shots in a game only once this season. He was left on the bench during the overtime period in a loss at Portland due to his inability to check rookie Damian Lillard and benched for the final nine minutes of Wednesday night’s win over Chicago so that backup Toney Douglas could defend the Bulls’ Nate Robinson.

What’s missing from Lin’s game is the flair and the confidence that made him a worldwide phenom last season. He moves around the court unsure and ineffective and seems to be pressing.

“He’s a human being. He probably puts a little more pressure on himself than he needs to,” said Rockets acting coach Kelvin Sampson. “But we support him. I’m not changing the starting lineup. That’s not gonna happen. He’s gonna run out there against New York and one of these games he’s gonna just break through and I’ll have the biggest grin in the world when he does.”

“I feel like in my whole career, it’s never really about getting going,” Lin said. “I felt like these are good shots and for one reason or another, they’re not going in. I still feel they’re good shots for me and I’ve been shooting them my whole career and I’m not going to stop.”

He was wide open for a 3-point shot at the end of overtime that could have taken down the Heat a few nights earlier.

“I was sitting in my office after the game by myself and knock came on my door,” Sampson said. “It was Jeremy. He walked into the office and said, ‘Coach, I want to apologize for missing that shot. I’ll make the next one.’ I gave him a fist bump and he walked out.

“It didn’t surprise me. I know he’s a high-character kid and he cares.”

How might that missed 3-pointer have played in N.Y.?

Lin knows.

For now, he’s just trying to deal with a far different kind of Rocket ride.

20 Comments

  1. Jen says:

    He actually made NBA exciting for me again last year and I hope he continues his success. Perhaps he’s not as talented athletically as Westbrook, Rondo, etc. but he’s hard working, a great person with strong character, and has basketball smarts. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a successful career in the NBA as a future NBA coach and/or co-owner.

  2. bbb says:

    Lin needs to kick Melo & JR Smith’s butt tonight to gain his confident back.

  3. Scalabrine is GOD says:

    They should have Scalabrine instead :) or T-mac

  4. Dawson Dawkins says:

    Two write-ups in two days about Lin on the Hangtime blog is too much.

  5. bu says:

    Agree wl Dattebayo. Though that’s how things work wl the media & life. There’s a Chinese metaphor that goes like this “if you choose to eat the salty dried fish, you accept the thirstiness you get after eating it.” Lin knows. And he clearly is appreciating what God has given him, at least a nice contract that more than pay the bills, esp he moved to Houston now.

    Now, on his play. Facts are:

    It’s really a rookie – soph year for him in terms of games played
    He’s just recovered from surgery
    He has a new team, with new coach, new plays, new organization
    Rookies thriving to proof themselves
    Harden, a ball hog, not much of a team player, but prolific scorer
    Other options that do NOT nec depend on Lin

    Lin is no CP3 or Russell. And there’re only a small no of such level of players (superstars) in the league. Why are ppl focusing on him so much & hv this “expectations” on him, esp under these circumstance???

    If you look at some good PG, their 1st 2 years are not nec overwhelming but showed signs, & that’s Lin. Media is making him a diamond discovered amongst stones. C’mon, be realistic. For those who criticize, feel free to do so if you can do better than him if you’re in his situation.

  6. JLIN BACKING DOWN says:

    he cant handle the pressure sad to say. its really different playing without any expectation from others, unlike when you have a whole nation and a ton of hype piggy back riding on you. i hope he gets his swagger back. the more he has bad games, the more this linsanity thing will hurt him. i wouldn’t want to be in his place

  7. Dr. O'Neal says:

    this is just all part of the drama.. don’t be surprised if he put up big numbers in their next game..

  8. Linsanity says:

    Hey at least he got his 25 millions dollars
    Which takes millions of years for a person to earn

  9. doh says:

    jlin thinks that God has a plan for his career. What’s so arrogant about that homie?

  10. I_Te7 says:

    Jeremy Lin is one of the most talented players in the NBA. Taking on amazing veteran Kobe Bryant, hitting the game winning three against the Raptors, and his ability to finish with contact. He is playing his heart out every game and is very humble. God will and is blessing him every day. His game will reach Linsanity level again and with other young talent like Harden and Asik, look out NBA.

  11. jeremy Lin is nothing compared to Felton and Kidd. Houston can keep him . I bet no playoffs 4 Houston

  12. steve says:

    It seems that Jlin loss the confidence and aggressive are the major problems. He needs to create his own shoots and he needs to finish the shoots. He needs to approach the rim and finish the lay up.

    • Mathew says:

      Best comment i’ve seen. Lin is getting his drives to the basket but he has not been finishing like he usually does. (Hence, his 33% field goal shooting) But I think that Lin is not as explosive anymore. I don’t even think he can dunk anymore. I’m sorry but hes still adjusting to the surgery.

  13. dattebayo says:

    Somewhere I read someone complain, that there are several great quarterbacks and yet there are all these interviews, articles and a general attention towards a benched Tim Tebow. The same rule applies here, there are several point guards in the league who are playing really well and there is no article about either of them. The Bucks are doing great with Jennings, Steph Curry recently torched a team for 30, Kemba Walker had a game winner against my favorite team and Eric Bledsoe had some very nice games off the bench for the Clippers. Yet here we are, Linsanity is suddenly Linept and how come he can’t do this or that. Carlos Boozer has signed a much hgher contract with the Bulls, he is a starter and he almost never finishes a game because he is such a poor defender. Yet there is no article about him, just an article about Lin who didn’t finish 2 games. Let the kid be, take the focus off of him and watch him play and develop. Either he will get better or not, there is no point in constantly looking at how he does unless you are a die-hard Rockets fan.

    • Marketing Slayer says:

      Boozer may not be living up to his contract but prior to that he was playing great with the Jazz. From that standpoint, he was offered a contract based on the number of years he proved himself with his prior team. What did Lin have before joining Houston? a few good games in NY? As a player, you should be able to understand your position in the league. He outright took a big contract and went to them for an offer and bothered to listen to them in the first place. If he wants to play the way he’s playing now then he should have just kept quiet and took whatever offer the knicks had for him. He’s expected to play the way he was playing with the Knicks with the Rockets due to his contract. You don’t get paid that large sum of money to not perform the way you are expected to perform. What he went through before finding a proper team was unfair to him but then that’s over and done. He’s now a legitimate player in the NBA and is expected to perform the way he’s being paid.

      • dattebayo says:

        Dude, I just wanted an example to show that it isn’t uncommon for starters to be benched and not close out games. I also could have mentioned Thabo Sefolosha, who was usually on the bench while Harden finished the game. I like Boozer and I didn’t mean to badmouth him. I understand his value and importance to the Bulls, though I think you will agree that defensive minded Tom Thibodeau likes to close out games with Taj Gibson instead of Carlos Boozer :D

    • Game Time says:

      Well when you’re a starter with BIG hype surrounding you it becomes reason for questioning when you’re bench in the 4th. People like yourself are saying “give him time to grow and learn”. Well he didn’t have that time last year playing his first few games with NY and he was explosive; or so we thought. The thing is, he came out of nowhere and people weren’t sure what to expect, and for the most part underestimated him. It’s not uncanny for any NBA player to have games like that given the oppurtunity. Two seasons ago Eddie House scored 35pts against Toronto because James Wade and Bosh were being rested for the playoffs, and were is he now? There are countless other players in the NBA who have had streaks of scoring then fallen off the radar. Anyhow, you’ll see that I’m right as the season goes on and Lin continues to be a mediocre player.

    • james says:

      Simple answer. It’s because they are both Christians, and outspoken about their faith.

      • dattebayo says:

        So are Kevin Durant, Jason Eugene Terry and former NBA player A.C. “Ironman” Green. Yet there are more articles about Jeremy Lin.