Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin is a global superstar, a mercurial athlete and a polarizing public figure. For every fan who testifies that the 24-year-old will meet his potential, just as many detractors will question why Lin his even a topic of conversation.
During a recent youth conference in Taiwan, Lin opened up on the 2012-13 season and offered a perfect evaluation of what went wrong.
According to Lauren Leigh Noske of The Gospel Herald, Lin spoke in front of roughly 20,000 people during his recent trip to Taiwan. His lackluster 2012-13 campaign became a topic of conversation and Lin thus offered insight that few expected to hear.
Per the man himself, Linsanity was simply too much to handle.
“I became so obsessed with becoming a great basketball player…trying to be Linsanity, being this phenomenon that took the NBA by storm,” he said. “The coaches were losing faith in me, basketball fans were making fun of me,” said Lin.
"I was ready to invigorate the entire city of Houston," he said. "I was supposed to save Houston basketball."
“I was supposed to be joyful and free, but what I experienced was the opposite—I had no joy, and I felt no freedom,” he said.
Love him or hate him, Lin isn't wrong.
The scrutiny that he was forced to endure was unlike anything that we'd ever seen for a 24-year-old player with less than one full season under his belt. From the expectations of greatness, to the unpredictable role changes, we saw it all.
In the end, we lost sight of the fact that Lin was expected to be "the man" and instead viewed him as the Rockets' system made him appear to be—an over-glorified afterthought.
Becoming the Savior
With James Harden's rise to superstardom, few questioned whether or not the Rockets were "his team" in 2012-13. With that being said, Harden was acquired mere weeks before the regular season and, prior to the acquisition, the Rockets had a different franchise player.
Prior to trading for Harden, the Rockets were prepared to move forward with a starting lineup of Lin, Kevin Martin, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson and Omer Asik. Martin is an excellent offensive force, but in terms of star power, no one on their roster compared to Linsanity.
We may have short-term memory, but that doesn't mean we can't be reminded of the facts.
Rather than serving as the pick-and-roll maestro who leads Houston into tomorrow, Lin was utilized as an off-ball player. After thriving on a usage rate of 27.6 with the Knicks, the Rockets dropped that number to 20.6—a full 7 percent difference, per ESPN.
Despite struggling as a shooter, head coach Kevin McHale used Lin as a spot-up scorer. That proved to be a counter-productive approach, as the numbers suggested it would, as Lin is a career 33.2 percent shooter from three-point range.
Even still, Lin managed to average 13.4 points, 6.1 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals on 44.1 percent shooting from the field. He posted a slightly below-average player efficiency rating of 14.94, but became a contributor that Houston could rely on.
Unfortunately, he wasn't a superstar.
Turning Things Around
During the first half of the 2012-13 NBA regular season, Lin seemed lost within Houston's system. Both he and Harden looked to take in-bound passes, with neither seeming to relent in their desire to have the ball in their hands.
During the second half of the regular season, however, Lin made noticeable improvements.
Prior to the All-Star Break, Lin averaged 12.6 points and 6.2 assists on a slash line of .434/.317/.787. After the All-Star Break, however, Lin's numbers went to 14.9 points and 5.9 assists on shooting marks of .455/.375/.784.
The assists may have decreased, but Lin averaged 2.3 more points on an improvement of 2.1 percentage points from the field and a massive 5.8 percent jump from beyond the arc.
It doesn't take a statistician to tell who should've been facilitating the offense.
This isn't to say that Lin is on a path to superstardom or that Harden should see the ball less in 2013-14. What is being established, however, is that Lin was right with his evaluation of events.
He was supposed to be Houston's "savior," per se, and was instead treated as their backup plan. After taking the first half of the season to ease into his new role, Lin turned things around and proved that, when given the opportunity, he can still be effective.
The question is, can Lin be their savior, after all? With the trust of his coaching staff in 2013-14, we'll find out.