Jeremy Lin is basically the same basketball player now as he was last season. Along the same lines, last season, in his first year with the Houston Rockets, he was largely the same basketball player he proved himself to be with the New York Knicks. Not the elite-level, superhuman-type talent he appeared to be during the heyday of Linsanity, obviously, but just a balanced, smart point guard who could start at the position for any number of teams that needed a floor general.
The problem with accepting the general premise that nothing about Lin has changed since his days with the Knicks and his early days with the Rockets is the fact that, for one reason or another, the hype surrounding his time in Houston has changed. And if it’s not Lin that caused the shift, then what did?
Well, that’s easy: it’s the circumstances surrounding him.
When Daryl Morey stole Lin away from the Knicks, there was no James Harden in the picture. The 24-year-old was brought in to lead the offense of a team that was looking to rebuild, and hoped to ultimately lure in Dwight Howard when he became a free agent in the summer of 2013. If not Howard, then it would be some other big man, as both Kevin McHale and Morey were both known to covet bigs above all else. Either way, though, Lin was going to be the supreme ruler of everything that happened on the perimeter.
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But then, due to circumstances beyond Lin’s control – Morey was able to pry Harden away from the Oklahoma City Thunder. And just like that, Houston had a bona fide superstar.
The problem with Harden’s entrance is that it immediately marginalized Lin, both on and off the court. Sure there was some initial hype about this being one of the most formidable backcourts in the NBA, but that quickly died down when it became apparent that the pair’s games were far too similar to complement each other. Whereas Patrick Beverley fit beside either one because he didn’t need to dominate the rock to be successful, Harden and Lin on the court together at the same time was, well, kind of redundant.
Because Harden was the higher paid and more skilled ballplayer, naturally the offense was tailored more so towards him and less so towards Lin.
The acquisition of Howard will result in fewer touches for all involved. And seeing as touches are a fixed total, not something there is an endless supply of, that means Lin’s usage percentage will be even lower this year.
All of that, coupled with the known fact that Morey has been trying to move both Lin and Omer Asik this summer, makes one thing very clear: Lin’s days as a star in Houston are dead and gone. He may stick around this year if the Rockets can’t find a trade partner, but that won’t change how he’s viewed by the franchise.
This weekend, Chris Baldwin pointed out that Lin wasn’t even being used as a marketing tool anymore. That’s how radically things have changed in the span of a year – he’s not even third in the pecking order.
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Again, the thing to remember here is that nothing about Lin’s game has changed over the past 12 months. All of his strengths are still his strengths, and all of his weaknesses are still his weaknesses. He wasn’t brought in to be a guy who stands in the corner and waits for Harden to drive and dish – expecting him to morph into that is unrealistic. No, what’s changed is the circumstances surrounding Lin.
And based on those circumstances, the best thing Morey can do for all involved is trade the youngster away. Because no matter what, there is no room for him to be what he was supposed to be when Houston signed him. At best, he’ll be the floor general coming off the bench. At worst, he’ll be a useless square peg that the Rockets try to shove into a round hole.