UPDATE: Friday, July 5, at 11:49 p.m. ET by Kyle Vassalo
I've decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel its the best place for me and I am excited about joining the Rockets and I'm looking forward to a great season. I want to thank the fans in Los Angeles and wish them the best."
Rumors are bound to continue to swirl around Houston, as the Rockets look to build their squad around their new superstar center. The Rockets now need to decide whether Lin is part of their future or if they would be better off trading him for a talented player like Josh Smith.
---End of Update---
The Rockets, as they've become deeply embroiled in the chase for coveted free agent Dwight Howard, have engaged the Atlanta Hawks in sign-and-trade talks for forward Josh Smith, per Zach Klein of WSB-TV in Atlanta:
NBA league source tells me Hawks and Rockets working on sign and trade for Josh Smith— Zach Klein (@ZachKleinWSB) July 5, 2013
ESPN's Chris Broussard came through on some tangible information on the possible swap, noting that Lin and Omer Asik would probably be the two principals in any deal:
I'm told Hawks and Rockets working on sign&trade to bring Josh Smith to Hou, probably for Asik and JLin— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 5, 2013
The obvious motivation for Houston is appeasing Howard. He and Smith are friends from their AAU basketball days together, and teaming the two athletic bigs together could make the Rockets an instant championship contender.
And based on recent reports, the pitch of pairing this duo seems to be working on Howard. USA Today's Sam Amick reported that Howard has made his decision to sign with the Rockets, though there have been some conflicting reports.
Houston general manager Daryl Morey informed his Twitter followers that the team had not yet been informed of Howard's decision. The possibility of a sign-and-trade deal for Smith being facilitated, though, might be the factor that pushes the chips in Houston's favor.
Lin's role in this deal would be as facilitating cap fodder. He and Asik have a combined cap figure of about $16.7 million for next season, which should be enough to match whatever Houston plans on paying Smith. Howard would then still be open to signing his maximum contract with the Rockets, maxing out at four years and $88 million.
Nevertheless, the writing has been on the wall for Lin even before the Smith rumors had a shred of tangibility. CBS Sports' Ken Berger reported early in free agency that the Rockets made Lin and Asik available in trades. But the popular point guard seemed to be the player Houston was really trying to push out of town—even if it only brought back cap space.
Mark Deeks of ShamSports was the first to report the Rockets' motivation to move Lin, noting that they had moved on from asking for assets in return:
Houston is trying to dump Jeremy Lin's salary, going so far as to prioritise cap relief over young basketball assets.— Mark Deeks (@MarkDeeksNBA) June 27, 2013
Lin is one of the most popular young players in the game, yet his level of play wasn't quite up to what Houston expected when it gave him a three-year deal last summer. The 24-year-old guard averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists per game on 44.1 percent shooting during his first season in Houston—not bad for someone playing his first full NBA season.
However, the Rockets' acquisition of James Harden prior to the 2012-13 season made Lin's skill set redundant. Both need the ball in their hands to play at their most effective level, but Houston was far better with Harden running the offense.
The Rockets were over three points worse per 100 possessions when Lin was on the floor compared to when he was on the bench, an effect that became all the more obvious when Patrick Beverley emerged during the playoffs.
Beverley, taking over for an injured Lin, averaged 11.8 points per game against the Oklahoma City Thunder while working more off the ball and providing strong defense. Lin played in just four games, shot 25 percent from the field and was brought off the bench for Houston's Game 6 loss.
With Beverley returning to Houston next season, it's questionable which player would hold court in the starting five. Should the Rockets find a taker for Lin as part of a sign-and-trade deal for Smith, it would clear up the team's trouble in deciding between the two while pushing them into contention.
What's unclear is whether Atlanta has any interest in Lin, or if he would have to be shipped off to a third party. There is no question that Lin can be effective with the ball in his hands, but Atlanta already has an incumbent point guard in Jeff Teague, who is a restricted free agent.
Either way, Lin's status with the Rockets looks tenuous at best.
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