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How Jeremy Lin Can Correct Ice-Cold Start to 2012-13 NBA Season

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 12:  Jeremy Lin #7 of the Houston Rockets sits on the court after a rough foul by Robin Lopez of the New Orleans Hornets at the Toyota Center on October 12, 2012 in Houston, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistNovember 23, 2012

Jeremy Lin has been everything the Houston Rockets had hoped he wouldn't be and more. 

But there's still hope.

The 24-year-old point guard is averaging just 10.0 points and 6.3 assists per game on 33.3 percent shooting from the field and 22.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Through 12 games, his PER stands at an underwhelming 11.98. 

Those who had assumed Lin would become an instant star were mistaken in their musings, but most had hoped—even believed—that he would be better than this, especially with the addition of James Harden.

Yet, here he is, struggling in all facets of the game. Lin's offensive deficiencies have been well-documented, and his defensive shortcomings remain somewhat masked by the 1.9 steals per game he's averaging. 

Of course, his defense has not been cloaked to the point of competency. The $25-million man has found himself on the bench down the stretch in decisive games because of his defense. To the naked eye, those steals make him a force on that end of the ball. However, his footwork, inability to cut left and premature anticipation say otherwise.

And again, that has found him on the bench when it matters most. Like in overtime against the Portland Trail Blazers, or in the Rockets' thrilling victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Is that what any of us had in mind when Linsanity took its talents to Texas? Most definitely not.

Even skeptics can admit that Lin should be able to do more on a team so thin and inexperienced. Because make no mistake—he can do more. Correcting the ice-cold start to Lin's season is just a few tactical adjustments away, all of which should come natural to the point man.

Lin has gotten away from the one thing that fueled his rise to prominence with the New York Knicks: dribble penetration.

Understandably, with a lack of weapons on the offensive end outside of himself and Harden, defenses have zeroed in on Houston's starting backcourt. But where Harden has been continuously aggressive attacking the rim, Lin has remained timid.

Only last season, 54.1 percent of Lin's shot attempts came within nine feet of the basket. He shot 47.2 percent inside such distances and subsequently, nearly 60 percent of his total offense came from in there.

That ability to attack the rim and get some easy baskets was crucial to the Harvard product's overnight success. He was shooting just 41.1 percent outside of nine feet—a number that plummeted to 32 percent once he got behind the three-point line.

This season, however, Lin's transgressions from the outside have not been hidden or easy to overlook. Instead, his inadequacies have been showcased.

Just 44.8 percent of the floor general's shot attempts are coming within nine feet of basket. In turn, only 21.9 percent of Lin's total offense is coming from where he has proved to be effective in the past.

Reaching the rim is such a big part of Lin's game. It's not just that he's most efficient when he gets inside the paint, but also because it helps overshadow his weaknesses on defense and warrants him being on the floor during crunch time.

As we instinctively knew while he was in New York and what we statistically know now, Lin's success is predicated on his ability to attack the basket, hard and often.

Without dribble penetration, his passes are flung with less purpose. Without an interior attack, his confidence is eradicated.

And believe me, his confidence has been all but purged at this point.

Despite averaging nearly seven minutes more per game, Lin is taking about half a shot less per night than he did with the Knicks. Yes, he was brought in to help facilitate the offense, but on a team where he is the second offensive option, garnering more playing time and assuming a more prominent role in general, that's inexcusable.

Lin has never been considered the embodiment of efficiency, but it's extremeley difficult to develop any sort of offensive flow when a) you're not playing to your strengths and b) you're not shooting in general.

We're not just talking about a nightly basis either. You can't shoot 15-20 times one game, 5-10 the next and then expect to develop continuity. It doesn't work like that. You have to be committed to being more aggressive on a consistent basis.

Lin hasn't done that, and that's on him. He's taken more than 10 shots per game just four times all season, and he's converted on over 38.5 percent of his attempts just twice as a result.

This isn't okay. Not when he has the potential to be so much better. Not when we know he can be so much better.

But to correct this, it's going to take a personal declaration from Lin to become more of the player he was, to get back to the spots on the floor where he remains most successful.

Failure to do so will find him exactly where he once was, where he has been recently and where he was never supposed to be again—on the bench.

 

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