There's no tougher task in the NBA than assembling a contender, and such an endeavor becomes much more difficult when mutual, borderline unconditional, faith is non-existent.
Lin burst onto the global basketball scene last February, and not long after, his knee experienced a burst of its own when he tore his left meniscus in April. He was forced to undergo what became season-ending surgery and entered into free agency with a bounty of question marks riding his back.
And yet, the Rockets decided to show faith in his abilities, the same ones that were only showcased for a little more than two-months. Daryl Morey and company took the ultimate plunge, throwing three-years and more than $25 million Lin's way.
Bruised ego or not, out-bidding James Dolan, above all else, is a sign of commitment.
But is that commitment, the original dosage of allegiance that led Houston to admit it made a mistake cutting Lin before last season, unwavering?
According to Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News, apparently not:
More than six months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus, not exactly a catastrophic injury by any stretch, Jeremy Lin continues to cite problems with his left knee for his early struggles with the Rockets.
“My speed and my explosiveness and my agility (are not) there yet,” Lin said the other day.
So it was hardly ideal circumstances when the ex-Knick made his Houston debut against the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook. even if Lin had two completely healthy knees, that’s a mismatch, going up against one of the NBA’s top athletes.
Predictably, in his first action since injuring his knee last March against Detroit at the Garden, it got ugly in a hurry. Lin made only one shot and couldn’t stay with the fleet Westbrook, who went for 19 points in 16 first-half minutes.
While some Rockets coaches have confided that Lin needs to work harder to improve his play, he points to his knee as the chief problem.
Let's not pretend that Lin's road to recovery has been smooth, because it hasn't. This was the same player, with the same injury, whom the New York Knicks were hoping would be back in time for the playoffs this past spring.
But here he is, stilling pointing to that left knee as the source of his struggles, as the driving factor behind what is rapidly becoming a prodigy's demise.
Is this cause for concern—of course. Is it reason for the Rockets to panic, abandon ship or throw Lin under a bus—absolutely not.
Even if Lin's work ethic is unimpressive, his willingness to evolve less than excitable, Houston cannot taint the now undeniable face of its franchise in any capacity.
Why? Because doubt is the enemy of chemistry.
Doubt breeds animosity; animosity fuels conflict; conflict prohibits development; lack of development destroys chemistry and the absence of chemistry, fluidity and trust dismantles championship aspirations.
And while the Rockets aren't winning any titles in the near future, Lin is supposed to be the pillar for which they build that near future around. How is he supposed run an offense, direct his teammates and emerge as a respected and accepted leader if the franchise itself is questioning his work ethic?
He cannot, which is why Houston's inability to address this supposed issue internally stands to cripple not just Lin's potential, but the entire roster's potential.
The Rockets are not a team laden with veterans, but instead uncertainty. Talents like Omer Asik, Terrence Jones, Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Lin are promising prospects but none of them guarantee stability. They're too inexperienced to provide such instant gratification.
But what Houston cannot control on the court, can be promoted and supported off it.
And that begins—and ends—with faith and the ability to support your players, especially potential backbones.
So what if Lin has failed to yield adequate progress? It's up to the team to motivate him through the proper channels of communication, not by providing counterproductive sentiments to the media.
Like it or not, the Rockets are a fragile entity, dependent upon the various forms of unproven, uncertain talent that currently clouds their locker room.
But what cannot be uncertain, what cannot be questioned is the team's faith in the product that has been assembled—not in Lin's ability to recover, not his poor outing against Russell Westbrook and not in his capability as a leader.
Because for the Rockets to succeed, for this current endeavor to be rendered anything but fruitless, they must establish a shred of assurance in an unstable environment.
But they haven't. They've instead tarnished, however slightly, Lin's reputation, subsequently promoting an environment where his teammates will not only shun him, but where the team as whole will collapse under the weight of such doubt.
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