The Houston Rockets come to Madison Square Garden to face the New York Knicks on Monday night, which is, of course, the return of Jeremy Lin. The hysteria and hype of Linsanity has moved down to Texas, as Lin tries to avoid all the distractions that surround him and concentrate on being a basketball player and growing as a young point guard. For the season, he's averaging 11 points per game and 6.1 assists (through Saturday's games), while shooting 39.7% from the floor, which is short of the numbers he put up last year with the Knicks (14.6 points, 6.2 assists, 44.6%). His turnovers are down, though (2.7 per game this year compared to 3.6 last season) and his steals are up (1.8 this year, 1.6 last season). What does Houston think of Lin? Here's a Q&A with Patrick Harrel of SB Nation's The Dream Shake, which covers all things Rockets.
How would you assess Lin's performance so far this season?
Without a doubt, I would say that Lin's play in this young season has been a serious disappointment for the Rockets. Nobody could have reasonably expected Lin to maintain the extreme level of play he displayed in those 25 starts with the Knicks, but Lin's sub-40 shooting percentage, his lack of lift and general lack of aggression have all been huge causes for concern.
Thus far in the year, Lin has shown a couple of things: he has the potential to play at a very high level, but he is not there yet.
Obviously, there are mitigating factors like the fact that he has not yet fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered last March, but to say his performance has been anything but a disappointment would be unreasonable.
How is his chemistry with James Harden and other teammates, and with coach Kevin McHale?
In the early going with the Rockets, it's clear that Lin is very well-respected and well-liked by his teammates. In particular, Lin has appeared to become friends with Chandler Parsons and James Harden. In terms of his relationship with Coach McHale, it's clear that McHale respects and admires Lin's hard work and treats him as a team leader.
On the court, the issue of chemistry is a little foggier. There were serious concerns going into the season about Lin and Harden's ability to coexist on the court, and those fears have been realized in the first quarter of the year. In times where Harden has been off the court, Lin has shown off the superior aggression that got him going last season, but, playing alongside the star shooting guard, Lin has been far too content to stand in the corner and spot up for threes. Unfortunately, this issue is not going away.
What do the Houston fans think of him? Is he meeting expectations?
The discussion of Lin among Houston fans is a quite divisive one. In our very binary world, it seems like many are forced between saying that Lin is Tony Parker 2.0 and saying he's awful. In reality, he's somewhere in the middle, but it seems like Lin, much more so than any other player on the roster, generates a lot of controversy in Houston.
Regardless of the discussion of Lin, there is no doubt that he is not living up to expectations thus far. A point guard who routinely gets pulled for Toney Douglas late in games is not meeting any reasonable expectations.
Has there been any sort of carryover hoopla and hype from Linsanity and his New York days? Or is he just another free-agent signing?
One look at the crowd of media attending the Jeremy Lin press conference after he signed with the Rockets would tell you that Lin was anything but another free-agent signing. The addition of Harden certainly has a something to do with this, but Jeremy Lin has propelled the Rockets into relevance that hasn't been seen in Houston since the Yao Ming-Tracy McGrady era.
With that, unfortunately, comes unnecessary hype and unrealistic expectations. Lin found himself third among Western Conference guards in the All-Star voting, well within striking distance of Chris Paul for a starting spot, and Lin is constantly hounded by various media outlets with questions about his lack of success early in the season. If anyone can handle a crazy situation without losing his head, it's Jeremy Lin, but I'd imagine the pressure has been a burden for him.
Lin's still in the infant stages of his career, but would you say he was worth signing and taking a gamble on?
The debate of whether the decision to sign Lin was the right was is quite interesting. On July 6, after Goran Dragic had agreed with the Phoenix Suns on a four-year pact, the decision was undoubtedly the right one. New York fans know as well as any that a season with Toney Douglas starting at point guard would be an absolute disaster.
However, going back to before Dragic signed with the Suns, when the Rockets were negotiating with both point guards, the decision to sign Lin over Dragic because of a fourth-year player option looks like a bad one. The Rockets signed Lin with the expectation that he was going to be the primary ball handler and scorer, and with that in mind, he probably would have been the better fit with the Rockets as they were built in July. However, after Daryl Morey acquired James Harden a few days before the season started, the equation changed. Dragic is a better off-ball player and can thrive playing alongside a playmaker, while Lin hasn't shown that early on in his career. It's not fair to look back and say that signing Lin over Dragic was the wrong move because Morey could not have anticipated acquiring Harden, but I think if Morey could have done it again, he would have signed Dragic.
Fortunately enough for the Rockets, they can afford to wait for Lin to develop. This year is not about winning any titles, it's about developing young players and figuring out what they have on this roster. Lin has essentially played just a full season of NBA minutes, so the inflated expectations for immediate success were probably unfair. Given that he has shown that ability to play at an elite level for a reasonably extended stretch, the hopes are that he can approach that level of play again.