With Change Comes Improvement For Lin


VIDEO: Jeremy Lin shows off an improved 3-point stroke in a win over Philly

HOUSTON — When Jeremy Lin stepped back onto the court at Madison Square Garden two weeks ago, the signs were there. A throng of reporters around his locker, the kind of electrical hum that comes off power lines filling the air.

Linsanity, it was said, had returned, when in fact nothing could have been farther from the truth.

Despite having filled up the hoop with 31 and 34 points in the Rockets’ previous two games, this was not Lin making headlines around the basketball globe with every step, just a guy trying to make shots.

The stats say Lin has been a better shooter this season than last, his field goal percentage is up from 44.1 to 50.6 and his 3-point shooting improved from 33.9 to 39.7.

The eyes say that he is a better player, too. He’s playing with more confidence and a sense of true belonging that’s better than what he had during those surreal 2 1/2 weeks with the Knicks when he (seemingly) had the NBA world in the palm of his hand.

That was a time that was never built to last. These are the days that are determining Lin’s place in the NBA as either a footnote or a foot soldier.

“Jeremy’s played very well, doing the things we’ve asked him to do,” said Rockets coach Kevin McHale. “It’s like I’ve said over and over and like I’ve told Jeremy many times, nobody could ever keep up with that pace of play that he had during those few weeks in New York. It’s just not realistic.

“I always thought there was going to be some leveling off last season when he came to us, but the truth is I was never as disappointed in him as a lot of people on the outside, and maybe Jeremy, were in him. For a guy who was playing what really amounted to his rookie season in the league, I thought he did well and there were things he had to work on.”

The most obvious was Lin’s shot, which had a hitch at the top and rarely looked comfortable as he let the ball fly. He spent the summer breaking the shot down, rebuilding it and learning to repeat it with constant use in workouts with Dwight Howard in Colorado and James Harden in California. Lin doesn’t pause anymore or look to pass the ball when he gets open perimeter shots. In raising his scoring average to 16.3 points per game, Lin has made at least half his attempts 10 times in the Rockets’ first 15 games.

“I’ve seen him shoot the ball all summer,” Howard said. “I know he can shoot the ball. We want him and need him to feel that it’s his place to shoot the ball.”

Lin is doing it while still trying to find his place in the Rockets’ rotation. McHale made the decision to open the season with Pat Beverley as the starting point guard. However, due to injuries to Beverley and Harden, Lin has since started seven games. He played 31 1/2 minutes, scored 14 points and shot 4-for-8 on Monday night as the Rockets came from behind to win at Memphis, but during the comeback Lin was sitting on the bench. As was Howard.

What Lin has improved as much as his shot is his ability to handle change, embrace new roles and ignore all of the outside-the-game distractions.

While the Twitterverse and knee-jerk over-reaction of the online world has tried to stir up a contest or a controversy with Harden and him — it is, you know, supposed to be a team sport — Lin just keeps moving forward. There are still defensive deficiencies, though he is considerably better, and even more attentive there than Harden. There is still the matter of trying to get all of these disparate parts of the Rockets to fit together.

Howard isn’t the explosive low post presence that he used to be back in Orlando either, 1-on-1 tutoring from Hakeem Olajuwon be damned. But there have been the indications that Lin has recovered a bit of the what-do-I-care swagger that was missing from his game last season as he tried to free himself from the weight of Linsanity.

“I’ll never forget that experience and I wouldn’t want to forget any of it,” he said. “There are some negatives in the aftermath that have made some things difficult. But let’s face it, it also opened up a lot of opportunities for me. In the end, I just can’t let it define me.”

Others have done enough of that already, trying to make more of an issue and a stir about his Lin’s shift to a reserve role and his place in the Rockets’ offensive hierarchy. Next season is the $15 million “poison pill” part of his contract the Rockets constructed in his three-year deal that helped sweep him their way. Clever then, indeed. But will Lin be that level of player, able to hold up under the scrutiny that will come again with the big raise?

It’s a question and a problem that can wait. For now, Jeremy Lin is content to take steps.

23 Comments

  1. qq says:

    We can talk about turnovers all day with the rockets, Harden is the one who turns it over the most, Howard gets the ball stolen from every time he gets doubled teamed, and fumbles the ball on every postdrive and spin. Lin turns the ball over because he plays in trancition and at a high pace, if lin played only in the halfcourt he wouldnt turn it over. But rockets can play half court so they run the floor on every oppertunity, Lin has played well so far.

  2. steve says:

    Lin is not a perfect player. but that’s only by the turn-over side. everything else he is showing improvement on top of everyone’s doubts. and I thought turn-0ver was never a bad thing anyway. which mean he is doing his job and making the ball flow. the result often time is determined by luck and communication in a sense. which I don’t blame him for. cause he deserves the credit. and his coach aren’t being supportive by giving him lesser minutes and bench him. if you are looking at the big picture. he is actually influenced the team to become better. it may sounds crazy, I thought he sometimes even push his opponents to beyond limit. making them double triples is insane. if anything Lin need to stop doing is that. just keep on the good work that’s all.

  3. af says:

    Look at Mchale saying what he did in NY is un-doable…his coach doesn’t have faith in him…Lin definitely has the potential, but Mchale does not see the all-star potential in him. Lin won’t grow under Mchale, I guarantee it.

  4. Peter Chang says:

    Lin has really flourished as six man. Seems to play with much more intensity as a reserve than when he actually starts.

  5. J says:

    He can be a terrific bench player.

  6. Sandy Tsai says:

    that’s why we love Jeremy LIn so much, he’s humble to learn everything he lacks. Hes so polite in every “monster-like” games of NBA. Hopefully he knows how to protect himself from sport injury on the long way to go.

  7. Absolute Truth says:

    Lin should be given the chance to flourish, he has a lot of potentials but as long as McHale is the Rockets coach, I doubt that’s gonna happen.

  8. OMG says:

    Jeremy Lin in my mind is an All-Star in the making. His skills and mental strength are amazing.

    • tacticool says:

      i dunno about being an all-star, but he’s def a good solid nba player. if he stays healthy and grounded which appears to be the case, he’ll have a long and productive nba career.

    • Badgers27 says:

      Unfortunately, Lin will be an all star, even if he averages 2 points a game. His legion of fans will vote him in just like Iverson and Ming got voted in without playing a game.

  9. Lucky Star says:

    The 15 mill doesn’t matter. It’s the cap hit that matters, and the cap hit stays at 8.3 for the Rockets.

  10. PC3 @SwHTown20 says:

    LINSANITY IS BACK!!! H-TOWN TX WE ARE BACK CLUTCH CITY, With a mix of some BEARDSANITY & the best/unstoppable center in the NBA for years now..(3x DPOY) Dwight Howard D12..& Lin is also becoming a leader (Shocking) + Lin is almost 6 points higher in FG% &3FG%…Say What Thats Effecient!

  11. max says:

    Where will D. Howard play next? Turkey? His Head has been pumped full of so much “hot Air:, that guy???Just keeps digging himself into a deeper dark hole. But he has managed to become rich, without having to produce, so, his Agent & friends have kept his name in lights and he has gone from team, to team to NOW his 3rd team???? Howard has fooled so many Owners. So, give the “Dude” credit, not much of a Player, really not even a GREAT player, but yes, he has been given mega bucks for WHAT??How many more Owners are going to buy into the hype? Howard is a DUD wrapped in Golden Paper.

    • bigbadbasham says:

      How do people justify saying Howard is a dud? Last year he played so “terrible” in the eyes of so many people and he STILL led the league in rebounds. This year is no different, because hes not putting up 30 points a night. He has never been an offensive weapon. Hes leading the league in rebounds again and hes still apparently playing terrible again. Ridiculous.

      • He is a DUD…. Dwight U Diva…!

      • howard is a pretty good player…but extremely overrated…kevin love can outplay him any time of the day…even nik vucevic can out play him

      • ian says:

        Maybe the reason, people see him as a dud is down to him not living upto his potential. on that basis he is a dud but still a good player. great players do great things as well as the basics. look at Mj, Kobe or Lebron when they need to step up they do/did that si something howard doesnt do even though his position is at its weakest in years.

      • PetrGSW says:

        Man I’d say he was qite a weapon in Orlando, for a center whos a beast on D and rebounds to average 22or so points…
        The problem is that he was 25 than, and is 28 now, and great players get better over the years, not worst…
        And his back is fine by now, so dont even mention that, not that it should have any more efect on his scoring than his rebounding if it wasn’t. when you look at him post up you can see hes just not comfortable, he panics alot, and
        doesnt take advantage. Hes still a good player, and overall best center right now, but no Greatness…His head doesn’t
        have what it takes to be great.

    • alp says:

      jesus you laker fans are like vultures…

      • Don't give a fuk says:

        im not a Laker fan to any means but Honestly Howard is not a WINNER. Thats the bottom Line.

    • Another Heat Fan says:

      Howard didn’t have a great season with LA but you guys forget it is not easy to just form a new team and just win a championship or even walk past the first 2 playoff rounds for that matter.

      The Heat did A TON of adjustments and they still couldn’t beat the mavs in the finals because the mavs were together longer and the heat’s chemistry, although they had some good chemistry at the time, was not the full team chemistry required to win a championship.

      And the Lakers last year had NO chemistry. People blamed the bench. People blamed Gasol. People blamed Howard. People Blamed the coach. Just a ton of blaming and no work actually done on the core of the problem, which is simply learning how to play with each other and ignoring the media distractions and pressure.

    • Another Heat Fan says:

      And yeah unlike Dwight, Kobe had done a pretty epic job carrying the Lakers last season, because he is used to playing under pressure. But he did not do anything to relieve the pressure from his teammates or coach, instead i think all he did was add more pressure.

      This “Win Now” mentality is wrong. The “figure it out and grow” mentality is way better. And time after time the Heat have emerged as a united team despite all the media frenzy thrown their way.

      If you remember right, there was talk of Lebron and Wade not fitting together. There was talk of Bosh being useless. There was talk of Spoelstra not being able to handle a team of superstars. There was talk of the Heat having a weak supporting cast. All the same things the Lakers faced last year, the Heat also faced in their first year.

      But now Lebron and Wade are still best friends. Bosh has done what Bosh is supposed to do, and now has his own videobomb thing going. No one can say anything about the Heat supporting cast being weak. Spoelstra has proven time and again that he can get his team to listen to him. And the Heat are all having thanksgiving dinner at Lebron’s house in Cleveland of all things.

      THIS is how you build a championship team. With trust, respect, and comraderie. And patience that you can overcome obstacles without making rash decisions like firing your coach.

      Kobe and Shaq were always fighting, but when Phil taught them how to win together they got on good terms, and then when they got on good terms they dominated the league. Without Phil Jackson, if Kobe and Shaq had kept fighting, they would have won no championships together.