Each year, the NBA goes through periods of time that we refer to as the preseason. In that time, young players and veterans look to solidify their roster spots and rediscover their top form before statistics begin to matter.
For Lin, the expectations are higher than average, and his preseason shortcomings are a telling tale of things to come in the 2012-13 regular season.
Through his five preseason appearances, Lin has posted averages of 5.0 points, 6.2 assists, 2.2 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. The numbers are impressive enough for a point guard in the preseason, which suggests that he might find legitimate success come the regular season.
Unfortunately, Lin's slash line currently sits at .222/.000/.600. For those who believe that this is a product of his scarce shooting, think again.
Lin is 8-of-36 from the floor, 0-of-9 from distance and 9-of-15 from the charity stripe.
So what exactly do these numbers tell us? Is it that Lin is an overrated player who will crumble under the bright lights in Houston? Or is this a reflection of something more, that a box score cannot tell us?
Although there are thousands of detractors who would love to see Lin fail, that is not going to be the case. This preseason has simply taught us that Lin will overcome elevated defensive pressure by becoming what we've always asked him to be.
A pass-first point guard.
Becoming the Focus
For those who have actually watched the games, it is clear that Lin isn't necessarily playing poorly. Instead, he is trying too hard to overcome the elevated level of defensive pressure that teams have placed upon him.
His reaction early on was to shoot the rock. Although his shot attempts remain high, Lin has displayed a growing tendency to defer.
With his superstar reputation established, Lin can expect teams to target him in each of the Rockets' 82 regular-season games. If he wants to make it out alive, he must learn that the pass-first approach is the best way to guarantee success.
Lin must play the role of a pure point guard to force defenses to give him space. Otherwise, he will continue to face double-teams and close-outs, thus impeding him from scoring at a respectable rate.
As difficult as it may be with the supporting cast he's forced to play with, Lin must trust his teammates and facilitate before scoring himself.
Does He Trust the Knee?
One of the most apparent aspects of Lin's preseason failure has been the inconsistency in his burst when attacking the basket. Lin is either coming off of screens too slowly or entering the paint and displaying the moment of doubt that will lead to missed shots and turnovers.
No matter what it is he is failing to do, it all goes back to Lin recovering from a torn meniscus (via ESPN.com).
Until Lin trusts that his knee can sustain the pressure that each NBA possession will place on it, his struggles as a scorer will continue. The rise on his jump shot will be weaker than expected, while his ability to finish in traffic will be marred by moments of doubt.
With a lack of trust in the stability of his knees, Lin must defer to his teammates. Shooting guard Kevin Martin appears to have returned to his All-Star-caliber form, while the athleticism in the Rockets' frontcourt should help with the pick-and-roll that Lin has begun to master.
Although unproven, his teammates are the key to a great season for the recovering Lin.
It's rather comical how LeBron James can tally eight assists and be called an elite passer, but Lin dishes out 12 and is referred to as overrated. Unfortunately, such is life when you rack up the most misunderstood statistic in all of professional basketball.
With that being said, the only way for Lin to succeed is to rely upon said statistic.
With horrendous shooting performances and unstable knees, Lin has found the most success this preseason while passing the ball. For the first time in his young career, he has displayed an ability to deceive defenders and is posting the numbers to back it up.
Compared to an average of 6.2 assists, Lin has turned the ball over just 2.8 times per game. Such a low number suggests that he has become a more responsible and less predictable passer.
His 12-assist game against the Memphis Grizzlies offered insight into said fact, as he turned the ball over just twice. During the seven games in which he posted at least 10 assists in 2011-12, Lin averaged 4.6 turnovers.
It appears as if the Harvard graduate has finally turned the corner as a facilitator.
This preseason may leave a sour taste in his mouth from a scoring perspective, but this should offer nothing but optimism for Lin. He will discover ways to score as the season progresses, but his development of a better feel for the game is what is most encouraging.
What this preseason has shown us is that Lin now knows how to find success when his shooting is off. It proves that he is just as capable of facilitating an offense as he is leading a team in points.
If his failure is a sign of things to come, it is proof that Lin has finally become a well-rounded point guard. A pass-first point guard.