Jeremy Lin's Imminent Return Will Provide Much-Needed Lift for Rockets

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Jeremy Lin's Imminent Return Will Provide Much-Needed Lift for Rockets
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Linsanity is nothing but a distant memory, and that's a good thing. 

While it was thrilling, Linsanity stood for a time when Jeremy Lin was still erratic: mixing game-winning shots and offensive explosions with turnovers and inconsistent shooting. 

But the 2013-14 version of Lin has been a smarter, more efficient offensive force—a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate. 

That momentum came to a screeching halt almost two weeks ago when Lin went down with a right knee injury, but as he told CSN Houston's Adam Wexler, he is set to return on Thursday with "no limitations":

"I feel good. I went through practice today," Lin said. "Feeling good right now, no limitations.

"I'll be back (Thursday). I played today and everything's fine. I'm full go, maybe in terms of a little conditioning."

He then added jokingly, "Maybe not jumping that high off that right foot, but I never jumped that high on the right foot anyway."

Prior to the injury, Lin was playing the best basketball of his career, shooting a career-high 50.3 percent from the field, 39.0 percent from beyond the arc and 80.5 percent from the charity stripe. His assists have been down, but that's because he has been inserted into the perfect role:

Instant offense off the bench. 

Now, Lin's injury was never considered really serious, and by his own words, it sounds as though he's back at 100 percent. The only real question is whether or not he can keep up this kind of offensive efficiency—his 64.1 true-shooting percentage is ninth in the NBA among players averaging at least 20 minutes, per NBA.com

To answer that, we have to look at how Lin is getting his buckets. 

Let's take a gander first at his 2012-13 shot chart:

Shot chart courtesy NBA.com/stats

And now his shot chart from this season:

Shot chart courtesy of NBA.com/stats

The most important takeaway (other than, you know, him shooting way better): Lin is taking more three-pointers—the best shot in basketball, next to shots at the rim—and less long two-point jumpers—the worst shot in basketball. 

In 2012-13, he averaged 1.84 three-point attempts to every long two-point jumper. In 2013-14, that number has jumped to 3.11. 

Not only is Lin playing better, but he's playing smarter

You can argue that his percentages won't remain this high all season, and that's probably true. But he shot a solid 42.1 percent on long two-point jumpers last year and is seeing that translate to the three-point line. 

Mix in the sixth-man role that clearly fits him well, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Lin set career-highs in shooting and offensive efficiency. 

With Lin back in the lineup, how will Houston make it through this difficult December stretch?

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The Rockets have tread water quite well without Lin, going 5-2 (including the game he played four minutes) in his absence. 

But the 25-year-old's return means less minutes for Aaron Brooks, who has been sporadic in Lin's stead, and less offensive reliance on Patrick Beverley, who is starting because of his elite defensive capabilities. 

Houston has a difficult stretch on the horizon, facing the Portland Trailblazers, Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder all in December. 

But with Jeremy Lin—just Lin, no "sanity"—back to being the first player off the bench, that stretch becomes much more manageable. 

 

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