Now that the 2013-2014 season is officially over for the Rockets and Jeremy Lin, it’s time to assess the next chapter of the Linsanity story. Going into this season, I assume many of us had mixed feelings as to how Year 2 of the Linsanity experiment in Houston would shape up. Year 1 was in many ways a big let down. Lin was supposed to be THE MAN after being “stolen” from the New York Knicks. You can’t see here, obviously, but I finger quoted the word stolen because the the Knicks never made an offer in the first place. This fact is very important because I believe we are still feeling the effects of that exchange.
If you can bear with me a little, this can be explained with a simple analogy that involves a Korean drama like love triangle. The Knicks is basically the hunky rich dude that tries to prove he’s not a narcissist by dating that dorky girl in the dark rimmed glasses. Turns out that dorky girl can be quite attractive without the glasses (big f*cking surprise). Even so, the hunky dude was never in love with the dorky girl, as he only wanted to prove that he is a good guy. How would his parents react if he ever married someone from a lower class!? He ends up letting one of his rival rich dudes woo the dorky girl away from him. The rival then starts to date the dorky girl, at first thinking he got a leg up on the hunky rich dude (I mean she MUST be hot if HE was dating HER right? RIGHT?!). However, after finding out she was pretty much dumped before dating her, the rival starts to treat the dorky girl like a second hand Armani Emporium shirt.
Need I explain who the dorky girl and rival rich dude are? So, if you think about it, this love triangle has yet to fully unfold. The hunky rich dude thinks about the dorky girl from time to time and there are even rumors.. er.. I mean moments when he thinks about getting back with her. And the rival started dating other super models, yet holds onto the dorky girl (sometimes if she dresses just right and tells him off, she can be quite attractive, but everyone around him thinks otherwise – “she’s just a simple girl from Busan, hardly fits in with our ‘Gangnam’ style”).
Back to the NBA: our story about Jeremy Lin is just beginning. If the hunky rich dude, I mean the Knicks, comes out of its narcissist shell, we might see a happy ending with Lin returning to Madison Square Garden where he took the world by storm. Or, the dorky girl could get cancer and everyone dies. Um, I’m not sure how that would translate.
Anyhow, sorry if I’ve gone off on a tangent. It is interesting and important to take into account some of these sociological underpinnings before we speculate the future of Jeremy Lin as an NBA player. Because how he is perceived by these two organizations and the rest of the league as well as the general public are the main driving forces that will ultimately dictate if Lin will be a thriving point guard or, like his predecessor Wataru Misaka, a forgotten name in the NBA. For this reason, the following article will ONLY take into account perspectives, information and statistics as is commonly known or absorbed. It will dive into how well Lin has performed OVERALL during the regular season and the playoffs. It will also take a look at how POPULAR media has portrayed Lin’s success or failures. And finally, we will take a quick look at how Lin’s deduced personality and chemistry with his fellow teammates might play a pivotal role in his own fate. As hard as it will be, I will try my BEST not to be an intelligent observer or as haters put it nicely, “Lin fanboy”.
2013-2014 Regular Season – “One step forward, another step back”
When looking at how an NBA player has improved or evolved from season to season, most analysts, media writers and fans will put a lot of weight on the season averages. With that said, Lin’s numbers looks like this: 12.5 pts, 2.6 rebs, 4.1 ast, 1.0 stl, 2.5 to. So it looks like he took a step back since his numbers are all lower than his averages from his first season as a Rocket (13.4 pts, 3.0 rebs, 6.1 ast, 1.6 stls). Those who are perhaps more fair or objective, however, might look at his decrease in minutes 29 mins vs 32 mins played and improvements in percentages. Even viewing it half glass full, Lin didn’t exactly jump out of that stat sheet with unassuming bumps in efficiency: 45% FG vs 44% FG, 36% 3PT vs 34% 3PT, 82% FT vs 79% FT.
Of course, readers of this blog know better than that and those who watch the games objectively know that there is a lot more than what the numbers tell. Sure he came out of the offseason FIRING, shooting almost 50% from behind the arc in the first month, even tossing in 9 threes in a loss against Philly and two 30+ point games.. then got benched and averaged less than 25 minutes the next month. ‘Linsanity’ as it applies to Lin himself was an afterthought and the famous pun was being tossed around regularly around the NBA for almost anybody that seemed like an underdog. Hey, I’m a Kendall Marshall fan, but there’s a HUGE difference between him and Lin, for one thing Lin WON games while throwing up eye popping statistical performances. All of this is what we think, of course — but that’s not the point here.
All the schadenfreuders publicized or heard was that Lin had “lost” his starting point guard job to Russell Westbrook’s knee surgeon, Dr. Patrick Beverley (woah.. that actually sounds like a real doctor’s name). That was the general story that everyone knew: Lin was thriving as the 6th man and enjoying the more humble role that he is so “suited” for. The most famous hater, Stephen A. Smith, even surprisingly changed his mind during this time.
The rest of the season continued the way Lin’s hot streak in the beginning ended — painfully sub-par and inconsistent. With the exception of that amazing triple double he delivered February and a few 20+ points here and there, there really wasn’t much to write home about.
2014 Playoffs – “Inconsistent”
Interestingly enough, the playoffs for Lin played out like a movie version of a tv series, which means he was, again, “inconsistent” at best and plays well only when he’s “confident” (as if someone who has his own movie and makes 8 million a year wouldn’t be). In six games, he averaged a sub-par 11.3 pts, 3.7 rebs, and 4.3 ast. His points per game looked like lottery numbers, or those mysterious numbers from LOST. Read this out loud to yourself: 14, 5, 13, 4, 21, 11. Just what IS going on everyone seemed to wonder. Already throughout the regular season, Lin was pegged as an up and down player so it played out exactly like people thought. Houston lost and part of the reason was because of Lin’s inconsistent play. That seemed to be the general consensus amongst normal Rockets or NBA fans.
Haters, though, when needing a scapegoat, seemed to raise their game during this process. All of a sudden, Lin was trending (#2 amongst NBA players during the first round), with thousands of supportive AND negative tweets. If you dared to join any #Rockets discussion, you would immediately notice all the hateful requests to get Lin traded or benched during each game. Every fumble and blooper got its ride in the social media world and were magnified. Though he didn’t get called for it by professional referees, haters felt the need to poke fun at this call in this video. Admittedly, I thought that was pretty funny.
Suffice it to say, the playoffs were not pretty for Jeremy Lin… except for GAME 5, when the Rockets had their backs to the wall, risking an embarrassing 4-1 loss to the Blazers, Lin decided to ignore McHale’s coaching and play his brand of basketball — going vintage Linsanity. The Rockets would ultimately lose in game 6 without that version of Lin.
Lin’s minutes during that span of time? Maybe not lottery numbers, but they certainly looked like a readout of measurements for a pair of porn stars: 34, 24, 33, 21, 30, 32.
Exhausted, disappointed and maybe, just maybe, a bit upset, Lin gave us this exit interview tidbit as he left to start his summer vacation: “I think this year was an up-and-down year,” Lin said. “A lot of good things, a lot of bad things, definitely an up-and-down year. A lot of adjusting. I would go through stretches where I played 35-40 minutes consistently; then I would go back down to 15-20.”
Welcome to Jeremy Lin’s Sources Say Summer 2014!
If you’re still reading this, then you’ve probably already ate up all the existing rumors and opinion pieces that’s been thrown around the Internet in the past week regarding the Rocket’s and Lin’s future — both predictive and prescriptive. Although rumors are just rumors, sources say they undeniably carry a bit of truth with them. See what I did there?
Though some believe that Lin is a starting caliber PG on the same level as Patrick Beverley (wow what a compliment), it is widely assumed that the “ship has sailed” for Lin returning to the starting role next year. Because it is believed that neither Lin or Beverley really gives the Rockets the point guard edge they need to get to the next level, the popular prescription for Daryl Morey’s club is to improve that position via trade. And it certainly doesn’t look like they disagree with that assessment, “Lin has been on the discount rack for forever and a day.”
Based on these observations, it looks like Rockets management are definitely looking to move Jeremy Lin before training camp even begins. That is the reported sentiment from their front office at least. But what about Jeremy’s own coach or teammates? Do they want him around?
As for Lin’s coach, McHale, it’s been well documented on this site by Mr. Philosopher himself, but I still can’t say he has a personal thing against Lin per se. True, he definitely doesn’t bother to elaborate on Lin’s play even after something like Game 5, simply resorting to a plainly spoken “Jeremy’s been playing well for us” comment during the post game interview. But he sure won’t think twice to throw him under the bus after a Game 4 loss. And he can’t possibly be racist. Just ask D-Mo and Garcia who didn’t even get to play in the playoffs after being a rotational player during the regular season. I guess nobody will ever know, but I find consolation in knowing that both Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic were once McHale cast-offs as well. Lowry, as we know, led the Raptors to a 7 game duel with the Nets this playoffs only 2 seasons removed from the dark days of playing under McHale getting only 32 mins per game as a starting PG. And Dragic, winner of this years Most Improved Player award, used to come off the bench with almost identical numbers and percentages as Lin this season. Both of these players are now considered “elite”. The only opinion I can surmise about McHale is that his approach for the game just doesn’t benefit point guards or role players who depend on ball movement. The latter argument is backed up by the fact that the rockets are a miserable 23rd place in team assists. D-Mo and Garcia are not the types that can create for themselves. They only play well when Lin runs the show.
So what of Jeremy’s teammates? In general, I believe he is well liked and has locker room chemistry with the likes of Dwight Howard, Parsons, Harden as well as Beverley, Garcia and Motiejunas. The team selfies on twitter prove it (I hope). Although there were disconcerting moments, like when DHo somehow missed out on helping Lin up after getting whacked in the head. Overall, after having watched a large portion of this season’s games, the guys seem to like each other enough. Harden and Howard might have some disagreements on how to win, but nothing to suggest ill feelings towards Lin or that would affect his vote for leaving the island. The H&H battle that made for terrible team play actually might have spurred the great Game 5 performances from Lin and Parsons.
Now that we’ve evaluated the regular season, the playoffs, the rumor mill and team chemistry, you might ask..
What are the trade scenarios already!?
After nearly 2000 words, I think I’m finally ready to give some predictions for where we can expect Jeremy Lin next year. As you can see, all signals point to Lin leaving Houston either this or next year. Business wise, his expiring contract will benefit those who are looking to rebuild and sell tickets in the meantime. However, based on the widely accepted evaluation of his performance and capability, 8-15 million in the next 2 years for a point guard who gives you 11-12 points per game and 4-5 assists inconsistently will be a hard sell for any NBA team. If Lin stays, the trend for his average play will most certainly continue especially when McHale seems to be the coach for at least another year. Lin will shine when given the keys to the offense, but they will be few and far between and eventually, I’m afraid even the most devout will start to crumble against such coaching buffoonery. I just don’t see a bright future for Lin if he remains a Rocket. Unless Lin learns to out-ego Harden like what John Mayer does to Kanye here, or for some miraculous reason McHale changes his style/tactic for coaching (If I can change, you can change, everybody can change!!), I just don’t see Linsanity ever returning. Let’s just say this — We love Lin because he’s just a great upstanding good guy. If he took a “Which Game of Thrones Character Am I” Buzzfeed survey, I’m pretty sure Lin would get either Ned or Robb Stark. And we know what happened to them.
Onto a less depressing (and exciting) scenario. Without further ado, after much ‘ado’, below are my favorite almost-possible wishful thinking trade scenarios:
Lin, Asik, Parsons for Rondo, Bayless and Faverani — The Rockets gets the pass-first elite defensive point guard that they’ve been clamoring for. They give up Parsons along with Asik, but in return they get a serviceable center in Faverani and Bayless can set the offense in the 6th man role that Lin had played this past season or start alongside with Rondo, letting Beverley come off the bench like he is really meant to. Furthermore, Lin would get to come back to his Harvard home crowd. Boston would have a fan favorite, sell tickets and prepare for rebuild. The only reason I don’t like this trade is that Lin won’t be in championship contention for at least another 2 years.
*See ESPN Trade Machine – http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=mntqvq5
Lin, Asik, DMo, Parsons for Melo — Just like when the Knicks mortgaged their future to acquire Anthony from the Nuggets a few years ago to create their “Sad 3” of Amare, Chandler and Melo, the Rockets would as well to form their “Big Ego 3” of Harden, Howard and Melo. Linsanity returns to the Garden where it all started under Phil Jackson and maybe Steve Kerr no less. Although I’m not sure how well Lin’s game can shine through the triangle offense which doesn’t need a traditional point guard to distribute the ball.
*See ESPN Trade Machine – http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=n3mm29b
White people trade
Lin, Asik for Anderson, Smith, and a slice of pizza.. uh Rivers — Okay, maybe they’re not all really white, but it made for a fun trade name. Anyhow, the Rockets get their dream stretch four in Anderson and the Pelicans get someone to back up “the brow” and a serious upgrade at the point guard position. Rivers is currently listed as their starting point guard and he has an 11.6 PER.
*See ESPN Trade Machine – http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=m4yjqsu
So there you have it folks. I hope the journey for the read-through was as good for you as it was therapeutic for me. As you can probably tell, I’ve mustered up a season’s worth of thoughts, a first round playoffs worth of tears and a week’s worth of hopes to write and share this article with you all. And now I can finally rest and enjoy the summer.
Follow me @JeffYam