Jeremy Lin recently conducted a fascinating session with fans during which he expounded on his first season with the Houston Rockets, and admitted that he probably didn’t live up to the hype during that inaugural campaign. Beyond how refreshing it was to hear a player own up to not performing to some people’s expectations, as opposed to the irritating defensiveness you usually get in these sorts of situations, it was also interesting to hear the 24-year-old’s plan for the future.
Even though some people want to pretend it isn’t true, last year, when Houston stole Lin from the New York Knicks with that three-year deal, he was supposed to play a very big role in the franchise’s future. It sort of went without saying that Daryl Morey would continue tinkering with the roster and add more big name pieces, but the general consensus was that the additions would be big guys. Both Morey and Kevin McHale are fans of skilled centers and power forward, thus, it only seemed logical that any and all major moves would impact the front court.
“I was ready to invigorate the entire city of Houston … I was supposed to save Houston basketball,” Lin told the fans recently.
Of course, things didn’t exactly go according to plan. Rather than adding a skilled, offense-oriented big to complement Omer Asik’s more unpolished style, the Rockets went out and traded for James Harden. Just like that, the backcourt that Lin had originally signed up for looked nothing like the one he’d ultimately have to operate in.
As a result of an offense that was supposed to be somewhat free-wheeling suddenly becoming oriented around one superstar, Lin was forced to adjust. And unfortunately for him, despite his best intentions, the adjustments he had to make didn’t play into his style. At all. He needs the ball in his hands to be successful. When his backcourt mate has the ninth highest usage rate in the NBA, Lin can't do that.
However, rather than understanding that his struggles were mostly the byproduct of coaching, Lin pressed harder. He apparently attributed his struggles to personal shortcomings, and the frustration in his game showed.
“I became so obsessed with becoming a great basketball player … trying to be Linsanity, being this phenomenon that took the NBA by storm,” he admitted. “The coaches were losing faith in me, basketball fans were making fun of me.
“I was supposed to be joyful and free, but what I experienced was the opposite – I had no joy, and I felt no freedom.”
When Lin initially made those comments, some assumed his ‘joyful and free’ description was supposed to apply to feelings. No, it applies to his style. The style that made Linsanity successful in New York, and the one he expected to bring to Houston. Instead, he was constricted by an offense that wasn't tailored towards his strengths and by a backcourt mate whose primary responsibility was to score, not put others in a position to score.
Last week, during his Reddit AMA, Morey suggested that the only thing wrong with Lin’s inaugural Rockets campaign was unrealistic expectations. That obviously was a massive oversimplification of reality. Thanks to Lin’s comments, though, hopefully everyone, including the Houston coaching staff who has the potential to make or break this kid’s career, will understand the real problem at hand and take the necessary steps to correct it.