Jeremy Lin's On-and-Off Season Proving Linsanity Was a Flash in the Pan
After signing a three-year, $25 million deal over the summer, Jeremy Lin has been anything but "Linsane" for the Houston Rockets. The Harvard grad has been a decent passer and played solid defense, but has continually struggled with his shooting. He has averaged 11.9 points, but his field goal percentage stands at a substandard 37.
Thus, as much as some may hate to admit it, last year's Linsanity is looking more and more like a flash in the pan with each passing day. Over a month-long stretch last season, playing for the New York Knicks, Lin averaged 20.9 points and 8.4 assists and shot 47 percent from the field. In the blink of an eye, he took New York by storm and turned what was, a the time, an underachieving franchise into instant contenders.
However, it should be noted that most of Lin's success came in the absence of the Knicks' two superstars. Amar'e Stoudemire was away from the team after his brother was killed in a car accident, and Lin wouldn't have gotten an extended amount of significant playing time were it not for Carmelo Anthony straining his groin six minutes into one game.
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As a result, with two of the best players in the league suddenly out of the lineup, the stage was set for Lin to do well. Then-head coach Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun game is built for a point guard to do well, and Lin did just that as the guy carrying the team. The Linsanity craze turned into the Knicks suddenly winning eight of nine games, including victories over superior squads like the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, even with Stoudemire returning towards the end of said streak.
Once Anthony was back in the lineup, however, the team performed badly. The man just didn't adapt to D'Antoni's system and drove the coach to resignation. He was replaced by Mike Woodson, who instantly made Anthony and Stoudemire the go-to guys on offense.
Just as soon as it arrived, Linsanity was gone.
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However, once Lin signed with the Rockets, it appeared as though he would repeat the success he saw under D'Antoni since head coach Kevin McHale runs a similar offense. Unfortunately, he struggled during the preseason, shooting just 28 percent from the field. The addition of James Harden and demotion of Lin from go-to guy to facilitator surely didn't help his confidence either.
The sad truth is that unless Lin is the focal point of the offense, he is otherwise a very average player. Yes, Linsanity was fun to watch while it was happening, but it's not going to come back unless Harden or maybe Chandler Parsons both go down with injuries at the same time.
McHale may run a fast-paced offense, but he is also a stickler for team play. This means that he's going to want Lin to spread the sugar around and not put the team on his back on mere instinct.
That isn't to say that Lin's brief tenure with the Rockets has been a failure. His assist totals are respectable and his 2.4 steals per game (not to mention 4.6 rebounds) are a testament to his commitment to playing hard on both sides of the floor.
On offense, however, it seems as though Lin is having something of an identity crisis. While McHale has run a lot of pick-and-roll plays, Lin appears almost hesitant to be the man taking the shot. Instead of driving the lane to try and draw a foul, he instead dumps the ball off to a teammate.
It's as though he doesn't know what kind of point man he wants to be. Does he want to be a scoring, clutch shooting type in the same mold as Steve Nash, or more of a facilitating playmaker like he was once Mike Woodson took over in New York?
Fortunately for the Rockets, these problems aren't unfixable and there is still a great chance that Lin could provide a generous return on investment. He just needs to regain the confidence he had during his brief glory days with the Knicks and simply go with it.
More importantly, he needs to realize that he doesn't need to be on particular type of point guard. If anything, he needs to get his confidence back on offense and learn how to balance it out with his distribution and defense. In doing so, he will become a complete player.
Once he does just that, perhaps his overall play will improve.
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