Jeremy Lin is entering the most important season of his young NBA career. After experiencing the highs and lows of Linsanity with the New York Knicks, a tumultuous inaugural campaign with the Houston Rockets, and a summer filled with whispers of a possible trade, the 25-year-old is finally coming into a year where expectations aren’t unrealistically high and he’s healthy enough to play at his maximum level.
The stats from 2012-13 speak for themselves. Sort of. Despite a 10-minute increase in playing time, Lin’s points per game, assists per game and shooting percentage all went down. His turnovers, however, went up. If you just look at the numbers, then last year looks a lot worse than it really was. When you put those numbers in context, the reality of the situation becomes a little more clear.
A year earlier, with the Knicks, Lin played in a total of 35 games. Most of that 35-game run featured him playing out-of-his mind basketball. Naturally those numbers are better than what he was going to put up over a full season; it should’ve been expected. Beyond that, he was also injured for most of the season and had to deal with James Harden dominating the ball – something he never had to deal with during his days in New York. When you take a closer look at the circumstances that led to Lin’s marginal stat decreases, the whole thing becomes a lot less dramatic.
The real concern as it pertains to Lin and the Rockets is how he fits beside Harden. Because in that regard, Houston does have a problem. Lin is a point guard. Point guards, unless they’re Ron Harper, dominate the ball. With Harden boasting the ninth highest usage rage in the league, obviously that rule didn’t hold true for the Rockets last year. And even if Harden does give the ball up more this season, you can pretty much count on most of those touches going to Dwight Howard. Whether Lin likes it or not, the amount of ballhandling responsibilities he had last year are going to be about what he’ll get this year, too.
That’s why this is such an important season for him. He no longer has any pressure on him. He’s no longer battling injuries. But despite those two roadblocks not bugging him, he still can’t play the sort of basketball that made him an international star. He’ll have to adjust to the guys around him, whether he likes it or not. And his ability to do that in 2013-14 will ultimately determine how fans and critics alike view him going forward.