5 Cautionary Tales for Houston Rockets' New $25 Million Man Jeremy Lin
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One of the great story lines of the NBA last season was that of Jeremy Lin, the Harvard-graduate who became an NBA free agent and an overnight sensation with the New York Knicks. Lin arose as an unnoticed D-League starter into one of the most popular athletes of 2012.
Lin's 12 starts for the Knicks before last season's All-Star break were special for both the NBA and basketball as a whole worldwide. As a starter, Lin propelled the Knicks to a 9-3 record before the break, averaging 22.5 points and 8.7 assists in star Carmelo Anthony's absence.
When Yao Ming announced his retirement from basketball on July 20, 2011, the NBA officially lost one of the most important players in its history. Ming was able to bridge the popularity of NBA basketball between China and America. He was the national face of Chinese athletics, and he was as good of a basketball player as he was a humanitarian.
What better time for the first American in the NBA of Chinese or Taiwanese decent in Lin to pull off the historic performance that he did. Linsanity was born across the country, especially in New York City, one of America's most densely Chinese populated cities. Ming fans were now Lin fans, and the Knicks were one of the most sought after teams to watch in the NBA.
All didn't end well for Lin's 2011-12 campaign, however. An unfortunate knee injury after the All-Star break forced Lin to the sidelines for the remainder of the season. The Knicks were facing a tough decision of whether or not to re-sign the guard who became a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
Obviously he had shown his value in his play, merchandise sales and ticket sales. But the Knicks were cash-strapped with salaries and weren't able to give Lin the offer he deserved.
In came the Houston Rockets. The team Yao Ming had made relevant during his eight-year run in the NBA offered Lin a three-year, $25 million contract which Lin gladly accepted, and the Knicks weren't able to match it.
What's going to be hard for Lin this season is trying to fill the shoes of the once-great Ming who had made his way up and down the court in Houston for the last decade. Lin is going to have the 1.3 billion people of China watching his every move, as well as American sports networks on a nightly basis. That's a ton of pressure for a player, especially one coming off of a minor knee surgery.
The Rockets are expecting Lin to continue his success of last season, as he's currently the second-highest paid player on their roster.
This raises the question: What are the five things Jeremy Lin should avoid doing in the 2012-13 season?
The best way to answer this is to use examples of players from the past who were put into similar situations to the ones facing Lin this season.
#1 Don't: Play Through Injury
Wade missed 31 games due to injury in 2006-07, the first year of a three-year $43 million contract.
Coming back from any kind of surgery, the last thing you want to do is re-aggravate the injury which forced you to miss action in the previous season. Jeremy Lin is coming off of surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. Overdoing it in the first year of his new deal could prove to be costly to both himself and his team down the road.
In 2006, guard Dwayne Wade signed a three-year, $43 million contract with the Miami Heat at the height of his popularity. He had just become the fifth youngest player in NBA history to capture the NBA Finals MVP award in a dramatic series comeback over the Dallas Mavericks. He averaged 34.7 points per game in the series, and his PER rating of 33.8 was ranked by ESPN’s John Hollinger as the greatest Finals performance since the NBA-ABA merger.
In the first year of his deal in 2006-07, Wade missed 31 games due to injury and, while caught up in the pressure of trying to defend the Heats' NBA championship, played through his injuries instead of receiving the proper surgeries required for his injuries.
Wade ended up suffering the following season, recovering from the pain of surgeries on both his shoulder and left knee. His left knee required further surgery towards the end of the season after Wade still experienced discomfort.
Learning from Wade’s mistakes, Lin should rest if he starts feeling any pain in his knee and not give into the pressure surrounding him.
#2 Don't: Play Outside of Your Role
Ben Gordon's Pistons career didn't go as planned, as his statistical averages dropped across the board.
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This year Jeremy Lin is supposed to play the role of the distributor for the Rockets. Kevin Martin, Omer Asik, Terrence Jones and Patrick Patterson should shoulder most of the load in terms of scoring.
When Lin is most effective, he's slashing into the paint and finding a player open on the wing or finding someone open on the fast break in transition.
With the Knicks, Lin showed he had the ability to score, but teams soon found out how to match up with him on defense. Going back to this scorer's mentality with the Rockets will doom Lin's production and the Rockets' playoff hopes.
A similar situation to Lin's was that of former Bulls guard Ben Gordon. Gordon was considered the perfect sixth man, coming off of the bench for the Chicago Bulls and working off the ball for point guards like Kirk Hinrich and Derrick Rose to get him open looks.
After averaging 21.4 points per game in the 2006-07 season and 20.7 points per game in the 2008-09 season, Gordon became one of the most sought after free agents when he hit the market in the 2009 offseason. He signed a five-year, $60 million contract with the Pistons who expected him to play as both a scorer and distributor, since the Pistons were thin at the point guard position.
Gordon went on the next three seasons to put up his worst statistical seasons in the NBA, averaging at most 13.8 points per game in 2009-10. Gordon never had it in his skill set to be both a scorer and a distributor, just as Lin is more of a distributor than a scorer.
The Pistons ended up having to ship a protected first-round pick to Charlotte during this year's offseason in order for the Bobcats to take on the salary of Gordon.
Lin must draw the line about his abilities to avoid another catastrophe such as Gordon's with the Pistons.
#3 Don't: Choke Under Pressure
Stephon Marbury's tenure with the Knicks is one that the organization would like to forget even happened.
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Stephon Marbury was one of the most talked about point guards in the league in his first eight seasons in the NBA. He was a guy that averaged 20 points and eight assists per game, and the New York Knicks were dying to get this Brooklyn-born phenom to come home and lead them to greatness.
So much so, in fact, that in the 2003-04 season, the Knicks shipped two first-round picks, Howard Eisley, Charlie Ward, Antonio McDyess, Maciej Lampe and Milos Vujanic to the Phoenix Suns just to get the man to suit up back in his hometown.
In the transaction, the Knicks also took on the $76 million contract extension Marbury had signed with the Suns at the beginning of the season.
Things were pretty in New York in Marbury's first year with the Knicks in 2003-04, where the team made it to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-02 season.
Shortly thereafter, everything went downhill. Marbury fought with coaches, fought with teammates, fought with managers, didn't give his best efforts on the court and went from averaging 19.8 points and 9.3 assists per game in his first year with the team to just 13.9 and 4.7 assists per game the season before his departure in 2009.
The Knicks as a franchise became the laughing stock of the NBA with each losing season, and Marbury, who was supposed to be the team's leader and savior, was just adding to its demise.
Marbury is the perfect example of how not to handle the pressure of being placed in the spotlight.
Just as Marbury had been in the past, Lin is now going to be on every sports news station across America and back in China. He's going to need to find a way to block everything out and win basketball games while playing his best.
Obviously Lin doesn't have nearly as big of an attitude as Marbury, but the pressure on him with the Rockets is nearly as large as it was for Marbury in New York.
#4 Don't: Spend All of Your Money
Former Sixer Allen Iverson who was once worth over $200 million filed for bankruptcy back in February over a jewelry dispute.
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It's hard to believe that someone signing a three-year, $25 million deal could be broke 10 years from now. That is, until you read about Allen Iverson.
Iverson was reportedly worth more than $200 million through contracts and endorsements during his 14-year NBA career, but somehow managed to shed more than $150 million of that money on houses, cars, friends, partying, gambling and just complete recklessness.
Luckily for Lin, he's a Harvard graduate who understands the concept of investing money and making smart purchases, unlike Iverson.
It's also been speculated that Lin could be worth more than $1 billion in endorsements, which should make his life even easier in regard to saving his money.
As grandma always says, "Don't spend it all in one place!"
#5 Don't: Get Caught Up in Controversy
Kobe Bryant was accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel employee in Colorado back in 2003.
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What is the one blemish on Kobe Bryant's glorified NBA career?
Back in 2003, Kobe Bryant was investigated for sexual assault in Colorado of a 19-year-old hotel employee.
Kobe was in the area to have surgery on his right shoulder in the offseason when a woman accused Bryant of raping her in his hotel room the night before the surgery. The case was dropped after Bryant's accuser refused to testify for the case in court. A large settlement was given to the woman by Bryant outside of court, although Bryant admitted there was no guilt on his part.
The best advice that Lin can take from Bryant's situation is that with fame could come consequence on occasion.
Lin needs to stay away from situations that could ruin his reputation with both his fans and the Rockets organization. He is one of the most popular players in the NBA today, and it's in his best interest to keep things that way.