The Houston Rockets are saying all the right things regarding Jeremy Lin. They maintain that he isn’t going to be dealt, that he is an integral part of the organization, and that the acquisition of Dwight Howard will in no way substantially reduce his role with the team. Along the same lines, Lin too is saying exactly what he needs to say. Just a couple of weeks ago, in fact, he tweeted out that he is preparing for the upcoming season in Houston.
Of course, as everyone knows by now, perception and reality are two very different things in the NBA. While both the Rockets and Lin may be reciting the same company line, it’s a known fact that the organization wouldn’t be opposed to trading him. Daryl Morey made that clear privately in the aftermath of the Howard acquisition – putting both him and Asik up on the open market. Thus far, there have been no takers. It’s still early, though, and anything can change before and during the NBA season.
There has been a lot of speculation floating around the web regarding where precisely Lin would land if Houston was able to move him. For weeks the Detroit Pistons were repeatedly mentioned as an ideal stop for him. Unfortunately, this past Tuesday, the team decided to throw its money at the black hole known as Brandon Jennings. Lin would’ve been a superb fit in Detroit’s backcourt, and a perfect guy to balance out Josh Smith penchant for taking horrendous shots, but the prospect of that happening is officially dead.
Here are the other teams that folks have speculated about this summer: the Charlotte Bobcats, Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Lakers. Let’s take a look at them one by one.
Bobcats – After the Pistons, this made the most sense for all involved. Kemba Walker is what he is. If you compare his 36 minute totals to Lin’s, he is a marginally better scorer and a marginally worse passer. What the stats don’t tell you, however, is the fact that Walker did his damage on a team with no legitimate offensive playmakers – allowing him to do pretty much whatever he wanted. The Rockets, meanwhile, even without Howard, were stacked – leaving Lin with much less room to operate. For comparison’s sake: Walker’s usage percentage was 25.6; Lin’s usage percentage was 20.8. What Lin provides that Walker doesn’t, though, is a brand name and a recognizable face you can build around. If Lin could handle the bright lights of New York at 23, he can handle Charlotte.
Celtics – The Celtics make a whole lot of sense for Lin, too. They want to dump Rajon Rondo; the Rockets want a pass-first point guard who would complement James Harden more than Lin currently does. On paper, it’s a great swap. Kris Humphries suddenly isn’t the most recognizable player on the Celtics anymore, and Houston becomes an even more legitimate championship contender. The problem is that Howard reportedly isn’t too fond of the idea of playing with Rondo. And it’s way too early in the game for the Rockets to piss off Howard with a move that they don’t need to make yet.
Hawks – The Hawks need a reliable point guard who can direct an offense, and Lin fits the bill. Moreover, they reportedly really like Asik. Houston and Atlanta could probably work out a swap, if the latter group is even kind of willing to part ways with its best assets. Unfortunately, the Hawks are in full on cost-cutting mode right now – and neither Asik nor Lin is particularly cheap.
Lakers – This won’t happen. It’s natural that the Lakers get brought up, because, you know, they’re the Lakers. But this team a.) doesn’t want to commit big money before next summer and b.) can’t add a ball-dominating guard while Kobe Bryant is still alive.
In the end, Detroit was an ideal place for Lin to go. As they made clear with the Jennings sign-and-trade, they needed a capable floor general. And while Lin didn’t come into the league with the same sort of critical acclaim, at this stage, he’s a better basketball player than Jennings is.