When the New York Knicks allowed restricted free agent Jeremy Lin to sign with the Houston Rockets, many expected the spotlight to shift to Houston (via ESPN New York). In an unexpected turn of events, however, the Rockets acquired James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the attention shifted in the Bearded One's direction (via USA Today).
With that being said, an important question remains. Now that the microscope is off of Lin, why is his game suffering?
For those who question whether or not Lin has escaped the burden of expectations, temper your doubts. If you ask Lin himself, he'll tell you just how peaceful life has been in Houston.
“It’s really, really low-key,” Lin said Sunday morning after the Rockets’ shootaround. “And it’s really peaceful. When I walk around, I don’t wear a hat or glasses or anything — unless I want to.”
“I think the beautiful thing about this opportunity is there’s less of a spotlight,” Lin said. “There’s room to grow, room to improve, growing pains, things like that — the stuff that has to happen with each player. I’ve only started 30-something games in three years in my whole career. There’s a lot of sophomores out there with more experience than me. I’m going to have to go through a lot to get better.”
At 24 years old, one can only imagine how grateful Lin is for the change in scenery.
Rarely does a player his age reach his full potential so young, which suggests there will be growing pains. Lin's elite skills were on full display during the period of Linsanity that now lives in infamy.
Until he is given the chance to develop as a point guard, however, Lin will never reach his full upside. Fortunately, the opportunity has presented itself for Lin do so without pressure in Houston.
So why is he struggling so mightily?
Which numbers are more significant for Jeremy Lin's season thus far?
No Direction on Offense
The Houston Rockets may have two talented facilitators in Jeremy Lin and James Harden, but their offense is almost always without direction. Don't believe me? Try explaining why the Rockets are consistently attempting their shots with virtually no time left on the shot clock.
Spoiler Alert: It's due to a lack of direction.
What this breeds is more jump shots and low-percentage field-goal attempts. Not even the point guard is safe from such results, as Lin is being forced into taking shots that are both far from the basket and contested.
Until that changes, his slash line of .343/.258/.862 will continue to ill reflect his abilities. Lin can shoot, but he simply can't perform to a level that proves such when each possession is wasted.
Not only is that on his need for improvement, but it's also on the coaching staff.
Still a Main Focus
Jeremy Lin may not have the eye of the media fixed upon him, but that doesn't mean defenses have forgotten about him. Not when Lin torched them in ways that are only describable as awe-inspiring feats.
So why are we ignoring the elevated level of defensive pressure that Lin consistently faces?
Even with Harden and Lin on the floor, the Rockets are no better than average in terms of the talent they possess on offense. Chandler Parsons is progressing nicely, but he remains an inconsistent scorer who is more of an all-around threat than an offensive weapon.
Omer Asik, meanwhile, is a rebounding menace with virtually no offensive fundamentals. Patrick Patterson may possess those fundamentals, but he is far too shy with his shot to make a true dent in an opposing defense.
Marcus Morris, meanwhile, has the skills to be a superstar. Unfortunately, his opportunities have been limited.
Until the Rockets progress as a unit, the burden of scoring the basketball will be placed on Harden and Lin alone. They will dribble out the shot clock, force up contested shots and face the toughest defenders each team possesses.
The duo will thrive as the season progresses. Until they've figured out their offensive direction, however, look for more of the same.
Cut Lin Some Slack
Jeremy Lin may be shooting 34.3 percent from the floor, but he's also playing exceptionally well in virtually every other facet of the game. If you're going to value his shooting percentages, check the other numbers too.
They'll prove the point.
Lin ranks No. 5 in the league with 2.2 steals per game and No. 12 with 7.0 assists. The third-year point guard is also posting an impressive assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.69.
This has come by virtue of Lin going from 3.6 turnovers per game in 2011 to just 2.6 in 2012.
With Lin developing into a premier point guard, his shooting percentages cannot be the only measure of how well he is playing. Although the lack of direction for the Rockets' offense is concerning, Lin's strides as a facilitator are noteworthy.
For that reason, it is time we praise Lin for the strides he has made—not crucify him for any shortcomings we can find.