Jeremy Lin rockets to Houston

 With the ball in his hands and the crowd cheering his name, Jeremy Lin is pitted against Los Angeles Lakers’ 6’7” foward Matt Barnes.  Lin sizes up Barnes and fakes one way, exploding in the opposite direction, only to be stopped by 7’1” veteran center Pau Gasol. Still, Lin keeps his cool and reverses under the basket to score.

The Madison Square Garden crowd bursts into ecstatic approval as Lin outscores Lakers’ All-Star guard Kobe Bryant with a whopping total of 38 points. This performance on February 10 along with his other “Lin-sane” plays, contributed to the strain on his knee which lead him to exit the season in late March.

Courtesy of the Houston Rockets

Last year during Linsanity, the global following of Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey  kicked himself for letting Jeremy Lin go; “We should have kept @JLin7” he said on his  Twitter account.

This year, the Rockets were in dire need of a point guard after letting Goran Dragic go and trading first-string Kyle Lowry to the Toronto Raptors for a first-round draft pick. Morey saw this as an opportunity to sign Lin, a restricted free agent (Lin could sign with any team, but his current team could match the other team’s offer).

Lin’s breakthrough performance as a starter last year gained him fame and recognition. During the New York Knicks’ winning streak, Lin averaged 24.4 points along with 9.1 assists. However due to his injury, Lin took and early exit from the season. At the end of the year, when his contract had ended, Morey immediately pushed the Rockets for Lin’s contract; the Rockets tried harder than any other team to acquire Lin.

The Rockets offered Lin $19 million, but the Knicks were ready to match the offer. Morey then bumped up the offer to $25.1 million and officially signed Lin on July 11. The Knicks could not afford to place anymore strain on their already bloated payroll so they surrendered Lin.

Morey was criticized for Lin’s high salary even though Lin is a young player, but basketball fanatic Matthew Marquez believes this was the right move.

“The Rockets picked up Jeremy Lin for his marketing benefits,” sophomore Marquez said.

Sophomore Dylan Phu believes that Lin could help the team with their financial deficits.

“Jeremy Lin is super popular, especially to Asians. Since Houston has a lot of Asians, there will be a lot of T-shirt sales. With that, [the Rockets] could get more players,” Phu said. “We‘re already rebuilding the team so the money would help.”

The Rockets have been stuck in ninth place in the Western Conference for three consecutive years with a winning percentage of 0.517. At this point, Rockets will have a hard time climbing the Conference ladder.

“The Rockets are in the middle of the league. They can’t get better,” Phu said, “they can only get worse than get better because they can’t build a team simply with the 14th pick in the draft.”

Phu explains in the lottery draft system of the NBA, the lower a team’s winning percentage, the higher the chance they have of obtaining a highly sought after athlete. Therefore, someone with a lower winning percentage is bound to pick an athlete that offers the most potential to the team.

Whether or not Lin could push the team to greater heights depends on how well Lin fits in with his team. The Rockets already established their style and their plays, but Steve Levine believes that he could fit in with the team.

“Lin seems to me to be a very likeable young man. I think he was popular with the Rockets before they let him go. I think they like him as a player, it’s just at that time they were full of tremendous amount of guards, so I think he’ll get along with everybody,” said Levine.

Phu thinks the current roster of the Rockets’ actually work to Lin’s advantage.

“Lin can run the ‘pick-and-roll,'” he said, referring to a basketball play involving a point guard who could make a through pass and a big man who can score around the rim. “And the Rockets are filled with many good finishers to execute it along with him.”

Whether it is team chemistry or Lin’s individual performance, fans remain optimistic about the athlete.

“If he plays the same way that he played in those few games that he did in New York, he can probably bring us up to the fifth or sixth seed in the Western Division,” said Marquez.

Fans have high expectations for Lin; they believe he has a vast pool of potential and will continue to improve his abilities, according to Levine.

“He certainly has the potential to be a good, steady, basketball player. I think he has the talent; I think he has the confidence and as long as he stays healthy, I think he’s going to help the Rockets,” Levine said.

According to Phu, Lin has been practicing hard to prepare for the upcoming season.

“Leg workouts, jumpshots; he used to have an ugly jumpshot, now he doesn’t,” Phu said. “We have Jeremy Lin: good and young talent.”