From early February to late March, most of the world fell in love with the play of former New York Knicks and current Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin. The "Linsanity" seemed to fuel the 23-year-old to heights no one thought he could reach.
It has been just four months since then, but Lin is now hoping to fuel his next run with a different kind of fan commentary. Once his biggest fans, the lovers-turned-critics now circling around Lin could be the motivation he needs to continue his ascension as an NBA player.
In an exclusive interview with Marcus Thompson II of the San Jose Mercury News, Lin acknowledged that the critics are here to stay:
I will always, always have doubters. But I really want to reach my potential to bring glory to God. That is more motivation than haters and doubters. I want to work just as hard, give just as much, whether or not I have haters.
The "haters," as Lin calls them, have come on strong in recent weeks.
The obvious start to the criticism came when Lin signed the Rockets' "poison pill" contract—a three-year, $25.1 million deal which made it very difficult for the Knicks to consider matching. The third year of the deal is worth almost $15 million, and New York ended up passing on any match of Houston's deal.
While blame was certainly placed on the Knicks, Lin took a wide load of criticism too.
"I didn't go back to them and ask for more money," Lin told Thompson. "It wasn't like they gave me the choice to sign one of the two and I chose the one that would hurt the Knicks. I had one contract offer. That was it."
In a moment that would have seemed impossible four months ago, Lin was introduced as the newest member of the Rockets last week. The look of Lin in Rockets red, no matter if he had played there previously, was a surreal one.
The star of Jeremy Lin didn't come on by accident, however.
With the Knicks scrambling for answers and finding very little, New York head coach Mike D'Antoni inserted Lin into the starting lineup. The results were immediate and, for lack of a better word, historical.
Lin would score 20 or more points and dish out seven or more assists in six straight games, and the Knicks won seven straight along the way.
There was 25 points and seven rebounds in a first-start win over the New Jersey Nets. Six days later, Lin put up 38 points and seven assists in a prime-time win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Four days after that, Lin hit a buzzer-beater to knock off the Raptors in Toronto—capping a 27-point, 11-assist performance.
Anyone who had doubted Lin was quieted. In two weeks' time, Lin had become not just a country-wide star, but a global phenomenon.
A knee injury in late March sidelined Lin for the rest of the regular season, and it never healed in time for Lin to be an option in the Knicks' five-game series loss to the Miami Heat. Despite the knowledge that Lin would become a restricted free agent following last season, no one expected Lin to be playing anywhere but New York to start 2012-13.
Even Lin admits that he wanted to be back in New York. But the offer never came.
Houston first offered a four-year, $28 million deal that wouldn't have been as toxic for New York to match. But the Rockets withdrew that offer and then put in the "poison pill" third year to their second offer, which put the pressure on New York to match.
Considering the luxury-tax penalties that would have come in the third year of Lin's deal, the Knicks declined.
Some considered Lin at fault for signing for the Rockets' second deal, but he was never given any other option.
Now, the critics he's gained along the way can power his next run at Linsanity:
It's not about who's right or who's wrong. I'm going to respond with love. That's why I'm in this position, to show love and become a better person. I'm trying to focus on the right things. I'm thankful for everything that's happened. The Lord has blessed me so much...The only way it will is if I fade out and get worse and worse. But I plan on getting better.
The Rockets certainly hope that the haters fuel Lin's start in Houston. Given what Lin has overcome in the past, there's no reason to think he can't be a better player in Houston than he was in New York.
If that ends up being the case, the haters will eventually come crawling back.
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