When Jeremy Lin signed his three-year, $25 million deal with the Houston Rockets, most of the controversy stemmed from the fact that he was leaving the New York Knicks. Few reasonable people argued that he, a capable starting point guard in the NBA, wasn’t worth the sort of dough that Daryl Morey was shelling out. The debate centered around whether or not the poison pill that Morey inserted into the deal was disincentive enough for the Knicks to back away from their biggest star from the prior year without feeling as though they were throwing in the towel on winning.
After a somewhat unfulfilling inaugural campaign with Houston in 2012, the debate surrounding Lin changed. Now there are questions regarding whether or not the Rockets are paying him too much for the production that he’s offering. The fact that Patrick Beverley often appeared to be a better fit with the starting lineup, at a fraction of the cost, also complicated matters.
Now, it’s important to remember: Lin struggled last year because of a combination of injuries and bad coaching. The acquisition of James Harden completely changed Lin’s role with the Rockets, and then injuries that plagued him as the year progressed made it impossible for him to develop any sort of chemistry with his teammates. The stat sheet doesn’t reflect either of those things, but it’s impossible to tell the story of his first season with Houston without mentioning them.
That being said, asterisks don’t matter. Maybe they should, but they don’t. All folks will remember from 2012 is that Lin didn’t live up to expectations. And all that does is intensify the pressure he’ll face in 2013.
For his part, Lin recognizes that, and he seems to be maintaining a positive outlook as far as what lays ahead. He is excited about coming back healthy this year, and he thinks that Dwight Howard will mesh perfectly with the sort of style he hopes to play.
“[He] really likes to play pick-and-roll and I really like to play pick-and-roll, so I hope we can work really well together and really happily learn how to play with each other," Lin told USA Today recently.
When pressed on whether or not he hears the criticism and trade speculation, Lin acknowledged that he does.
"Right now I know there's always speculation about what might happen, but I haven't made any decisions I haven't thought about it and I'm going to approach that question when the time comes.”
This is a make or break year for Lin and how he’s perceived around the league. If he helps lead a Rockets team that some think may contend for an NBA title, then he goes back to being the same hero he was during the heyday of Linsanity. If he doesn’t, then his reputation will change based on that outcome instead.