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Jeremy Lin: Rockets PG's Slow Start Proves He's Still a Developing Prospect

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 27:  Jeremy Lin #7 of the Houston Rockets is knocked to the court against the Toronto Raptors at the Toyota Center on November 27, 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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Ethan GrantAnalyst INovember 30, 2012

Jeremy Lin burst on the scene in February 2012, becoming one of the NBA's hottest point guards and single-handedly making Tim Tebow irrelevant (if only for a couple of weeks).

His struggles this season, however, have proven what the New York Knicks and many other league pundits declared about the youngster from Harvard—he wasn't ready for a full 82-game stretch as the floor general.

The Houston Rockets took the plunge this offseason with Lin.

Desperate to fill the void left by Yao Ming and a slew of unsuccessful seasons since Tracy McGrady went awry, the Rockets went stir crazy in the offseason.

Houston signed big man Omer Asik and Lin to "poison pill" contracts, back-loaded enough to where teams wouldn't want to match restricted free agent offer sheets.

So far, Asik has looked like a steal, while Lin is barely proving he belongs as the starting point guard.

Through 15 games, Lin is fifth on the team in scoring at 10.3 points per game, while shooting at just a 37.7 percent clip from the floor. He's a ghastly 25 percent from three-point land.

His turnover numbers are still a concern at 2.9 per outing—even though teammate James Harden is at 4.0—and he's only had one game this year with less than two turnovers.

Lin is still a prospect in this league.

While poor-sounding on the surface, that might not a be a bad thing for the Rockets.

Houston didn't expect to contend for a championship right away—there's still plenty of time for Lin to mature into the player we saw flashes of in New York.

When Mike D'Antoni was out in New York last season, it was clear that Mike Woodson was going to ride the hot hand with Lin. But he was clearly more fond of Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire than the third-year point guard, as noted by NBA Rumors on Twitter.

Mike Woodson always considered Jeremy Lin to be more of a backup point guard than a starter, according to a person close to him.

— NBA Rumors (@NBARUMORS) November 26, 2012

Lin took over when the team was an afterthought to the postseason. The Knicks didn't have high expectations, and in his first start, Anthony suffered an injury that gave Lin full reins to the offense.

He was a creator, wasn't dealing with anything other than pick-and-roll basketball, and evidenced by his high turnover numbers the first few games with New York, the Knicks were going to give him plenty of opportunities to both affect the game and not worry about making mistakes.

This year, for whatever reason, he hasn't been as effective.

Blame the James Harden trade, a new city, or the league watching film on Lin and learning he has weaknesses that are exploitable.

As ESPN's Stats and Information pointed out on Twitter, Lin has had just one game this season where he's shot better than 50 percent from the floor. He had ten such games during his 26-game hot streak in NY.

Jeremy Lin: 16 pts, 10 assists in Rockets win. He was 7-9 from field, his 1st game this season shooting better than 50 percent

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 28, 2012

That being said, it's still acceptable that he's taking a bit longer than he did in New York to master the league's most demanding position.

To give an example, I witnessed Rodrigue Beaubois single-handedly bring the Dallas Mavericks back into the game against the San Antonio Spurs in the 2010 playoffs. He came off the bench to torch one of the league's best defenses as a rookie.

Although the Mavs lost that series, Beaubois quickly became a hot commodity and was declared untradeable by owner Mark Cuban. Now, he isn't even in the point guard or shooting guard rotation after the team felt the need to sign 38-year-old Derek Fisher to fix its current woes.

Things change quickly in this league.

Lucky for Lin, he's still doing good things on a game-by-game basis, and most of his problems can be fixed. He's a natural leader—guys gravitate to his ability and Lin has a knack for the game that many veterans have yet to come by.

The shooting percentages will come up with time.

If Rockets fans heard the team was 7-8 with wins over Chicago and New York and a three-point loss to Miami before the season started, I think they'd be surprised.

If you told them Lin's stats, I think they'd be even more surprised.

Still, Lin is developing at the position. He's under 25 years old. The team has him locked up for the next three seasons, and the demand for a championship isn't great during this pivotal time for improvement in his career.

He also has Harden, Asik and the surprising Chandler Parsons to play with, guys that will help take pressure off of him for years to come.

Don't despair, Houstonites. Lin is struggling, there's no doubt about it. But categorizing him as a bust or elite are both extreme categories that he doesn't fall into.

For now, he's a work in progress.

Let's leave it at that.

 

Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.


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