Houston Rockets' Jeremy Lin's Preseason Woes Are Nothing to Be Alarmed About
Hey now I know you're probably reading this and thinking to yourself "aw jeez not another opinion piece about Jeremy Lin...I'm clicking NEXT!"
If you've managed to make it past that thought, I want to make it clear to the Houston Rockets fan base that Jeremy Lin—although playing rather unexceptionally in the preseason—is not here to sabotage your dreams of bringing back "Clutch City."
I'm sure it is not breaking news to anyone here, but the biggest splash the team made this offseason was acquiring the services of Jeremy Lin. Yet all is not good and well in H-town, since his performance in the preseason has caused many around the Toyota Center to let fly the emergency parachutes and jump off the rocket.
Many have pointed to his bum knee, the dismal shooting (28.3 FG%), his seeming lack of facilitation (6 apg), the little propensity to grab rebounds (2.3 rpg) or roll the dice on some steals (2.3 spg).
Yet those same people seem to forget that this is the preseason. In baseball, they say pennants aren't won in June. The same rule applies for judging players before Halloween. Once the masks come off all bets are off, so let's take a look at the misconceptions many fans have about a Texas-sized serving of Linsanity in this over-hyped and scrutinized preseason:
Too Much Money for an Unproven Player
I understand where you're coming from. Believe me, I do. He had a fairly small sample size in the Big Apple and unfortunately had to go under the knife midway through the year, so we couldn't fully grasp what he was capable of.
However, from what we saw when he was a Knickerbocker and from his games in the preseason, he does the things that don't show up on the stat sheets. Lin, having just turned 24, is still a few years away from the chunk of his prime, but he has demonstrated that he can see the floor better and is a more capable leader than many of his peers.
Also, an average of $8 million per year for a player whom your offense will be running through, is not an absurd amount—especially for a team, at less than $48 million, that is dead last in payroll (the Pacers are next with over $51 million and the Lakers lead the NBA at over $100 million).
Lin is Not the Answer for a Mediocre Team
The Houston Rockets, who are one of the most storied franchises in the NBA, are in a rebuilding mode.
It's as simple as that.
Each franchise goes through a painful one every generation. Their other point guards, Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry, wanted more money or just wanted to get out. Besides Lin, if you thought any other available point guard was going to immediately take the Rockets to the promised land, you were mistaken.
Lin is actually a better option for the team anyway, based on the way he plays and attacks the basket. While he hasn't flashed it in the preseason yet, everyone knows he can stroke it from beyond the arc and is not afraid to drive inside as well.
Furthermore, he has shown that he can handle being the director of the show and can pass with the best of them too. I'm not an Ivy League grad, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that coming from Harvard would mean he's got a decent head on his shoulders too and can maintain a calming influence in the locker room (as shown by his mature handing of the Linsanity last season). Not sure how it will really translate to basketball IQ, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
In my opinion, the team needed to start from scratch after missing the playoffs for consecutive seasons. Adding Lin was a tremendous idea since the team can stay relevant as he is capable of steadying the ship till Houston's three brand new draft picks (Jeremy Lamb, great scorer; Royce White, 6'10" with great hands; Terrence Jones, 6'9" and fresh off the Wildcat championship run, averaging nearly 16 and nine) are ready to succeed.
The team may not be contending against the new-look Lakers or Thunder just yet, but as Lin approaches his prime, laden with the possible lottery picks the team may be getting this year as well, this team has put in place some pieces to make a solid run a couple seasons from now.
Add the Kevin Martin saga with his expiring contract and the Rockets (as stated before, are a team well below the salary cap) have a great chance at getting prospective talent in return. You know the old playoff adage where they say it's better to be in the lottery than the last seed in the playoffs?
On a side note, Kevin McHale will be entering his second season as their coach, giving the team a level of familiarity.
He's Been Abysmal in the preseason
Say it once again.
Slowly this time.
Most of the NBA sleepwalks through this part of the season. Considering Lin came off surgery, I'm sure he was advised to turn it down a notch and see how his body responds to the rigors of the game. Remember, folks, there are 82 games this season and he's only played in a handful of games the past seven months. While he might not set the world on fire, his shot will come back.
We have yet to see what will happen when each opposing defense is predicated on stopping him once the season starts—whether he is a "pass first" point guard—but so far it seems as though he is drawing many double-teams.
On the perimeter, since his shot has been a bit off, he is left a bit more alone but as he gets into the paint the lanes get clogged. He will need to start pumping in more jump shots and even Tony Parker-esque tear drop floaters for the team to succeed.
Moreover, his new teammates, especially the newly wealthy "Turkish Hammer" Omer Asik, need to be in position down by the hole at all times when Lin tries to slide through.
Turnovers and Other Stats
Ah yes. The infamous Lin turnovers. (Linovers?) You remember the SportsCenter slides where the anchors would count each one and stack the totals up like trophies don't you? I'm fully aware I just said preseason stats mean diddly squat, but let's take a look at Lin this preseason, since everyone wants to zero in on his six (so far) games regardless of what I say anyway.
Using player files on NBA.com, we can see that Lin is averaging 2.5 turnovers per game in the preseason.
Again, take this with a grain of salt, because—yup, you guessed—it is the preseason.
Compared to the point guards of the two teams we read just above, the Lakers and Thunder, Steve Nash is averaging 2.5 through eight scrimmages and Russell Westbrook is at a hefty three in five contests.
Okay, so why stop there?
Assists per game: Nash, 4.3; Lin, 6; Westbrook, 6.8.
Yes, the other two have a couple more All-Stars around them.
Steals per game: Westbrook, 0.8; Nash, 0.9; Lin, 2.3.
Rebounds per game: Nash, 2.3; Lin, 2.3; Westbrook, 2.4.
If you're thinking to yourself "maybe it's because Lin is playing a lot more" then I've got news for you, pal:
Minutes per game: Nash, 22.1; Lin 25.3; Westbrook, 25.4.
Hey let's not get carried away, though, we all understand that Lin's field goal percentage is much lower than each of the other two. Keep in mind that Lin, as stated before, is still rusty having come off surgery, within a new offense and teammates, and trying to learn his new role both on and off the court.
Final Message to the Critics and Bashers
Let the guy play his game and when the Houston Rockets' season kicks off on Halloween against the Pistons, I'm sure he'll surprise most of the naysayers. The Rockets may not be launched into the orbit this season but signing Lin was the first act for an eventual championship rocket landing.
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