Jeremy Lin Is Better Off Leaving Houston Rockets If He Wants to Be in NBA All-Star Game
On Thursday night, the results will be announced on the fan balloting of which players have the honor of starting for the East and West in the 2014 NBA All-Star Game. And unfortunately for Jeremy Lin fans, odds are that he's not going to be a part of that list.
At press time, the lead NBA votegetters in the Western Conference backcourt are injured NBA legend Kobe Bryant (844,538 votes), the dynamic Stephen Curry (677,372) and on-the-mend superstar Chris Paul (651,073), with Lin well behind with 471,980 votes. Lin has fallen an entire place from where he stood last year, when he nearly upset Paul for the starting point guard slot in the game. However, that's not an indictment on Lin's performance this year; in fact, Lin has actually improved his game by quite a bit from last season.
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During the 2012-13 season, while Lin had more votes in the NBA All-Star Game fan voting (883,809), his performance with the Houston Rockets, who he had just signed with during the summer, up to that point was anything but impressive. Struggling to adjust to the new system, he put up erratic numbers that vacillated between mediocre (10.2 points, 37.3 percent shooting in November 2012), excellent (17.3 points, 44.0 percent shooting in April 2013) and average (12.4 points in January).
Over the summer, Lin worked on sanding off the rough edges of his game and the results started showing at the start of the season. Lin averaged 15.3 points and 4.7 assists off 49.3 percent shooting in 15 games in November, looking comfortable and starting to evolve his game. And he did that despite being confined to the bench by Rockets coach Kevin McHale in favor of Patrick Beverley.
Despite his current slump, Lin--averaging 13.5 points so far this season--has been shooting an effective 46.3 percent from the field, showing he has the touch from field goal range. But despite his improvement, Lin has seen his playing time volley back and forth, especially in the last week since Beverley returned from injury. From playing at least 30-plus minutes a night, Lin has played around an average of 24.0 minutes per night. The results have not done him any favors in his offensive categories, his point tallies dipping into single digits since last Thursday when Beverley returned.
Admittedly, if you go by the numbers per month, by the raw numbers in points, assists and the like, Lin's tallies have hardly merited an All-Star starting lineup spot. When you measure those numbers up against the likes of Curry (23.5 points, 9.2 assists), OKC's Russell Westbrook (21.3 points, 7.0 assists), and San Antonio's Tony Parker (17.9 points, 6.3 assists), the numbers speak for themselves; it's just simple arithmetic. However, what the numbers have barely shown has been Lin's potential to be more. By the stats, his shooting has markedly improved from last season, so he's becoming a more reliable option when it comes to who can take the shot. He's retained that explosive drive to the basket, athletic quickness and the tenacious energy on offense that make him a viable asset to any team that he plays for. And he's an excellent free throw shooter, making him a logical choice when it comes to attacking the lane to draw fouls.
He's become even more efficient with his shooting off the bench, shooting 48.9 percent from reserve. It's a little lower in 22 games as a starter (45.2 percent), but respectable. And with a few more shot attempts and possessions, Lin could be a pretty potent offensive weapon, as he's shown at several points this season when he's taken 10 or more shots for the night and is allowed to attack the basket. But let's be honest--as long as he's with the Rockets, that's just not going to happen on a regular basis.
Despite Lin's commitment to improving his shooting, McHale has benched Lin in favor of the less offensively talented, but defensively adept Beverley, leading to Lin's shot attempts, limited as they were before, falling even further. Even when Lin was starting, he had to fight to get his share of shots in Houston with Harden and Chandler Parsons anchoring the offense, and that number wouldn't get any better with Dwight Howard now playing center for the Rockets. When it comes to hunting the offensive antelope, they're the lions, and Lin's the hyena; he has to fight for his share.
Which begs the question: are the Houston Rockets really the ideal team for Lin to continue his career with?
If Lin had averaged only four, maybe five more points, or gotten at least five or more extra shots per night, that could have made a world of difference when it came to his stats line as fans began voting from around the world. That Lin has a large and devoted fanbase, especially among Asian hoops fans, is evident in the votes; no other NBA bench player came even close to the number of votes Lin tallied for Houston. But it's the larger base of fans that Lin has to convince. Last year, Stephen Curry was terrific, but few knew his name until his sensational NBA playoffs stint with the Warriors. Now, he's No.2 among West guards in the fan voting. The fans do tend to vote for their favorites, but they can also reward high numbers and awesome play. Lin needs the opportunity to be able to fully showcase what he can do, especially now that it seems like he's maturing on the court as a better player. But in Houston, that's not in the cards. Which is a shame, because he's a marketing explosion waiting to happen, especially with his potential to link the league to the vastly coveted Asian markets abroad. That potential is what prompted the Rockets to outspend the Knicks for Lin's services in the summer of 2012; there's huge money yet to be made on Lin and, by default, for the team that he plays for if he gets the minutes and opportunities on offense to prove his worth. There are a few nice options that could be suitable homes for Lin. If Boston ends up wanting to trade Rajon Rondo rather than potentially lose him for nothing, Lin would find himself at home back in the Atlantic Division with a chance to stick it to the Knicks for letting him go, while enjoying the benefits of having better opportunities on offense. Or if Lin wants to be patient and wait until 2015, maybe the Lakers would be an ideal home for him. Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni is a big Lin supporter, and his hyperactive offense helped make Lin an overnight star in New York; plus, the surrounding venue of the glitz and glamour of L.A. and Hollywood would certainly be any self-respecting NBA agent's dream for his/her client. But more importantly, he would get the chance to do much more with his talents and show fans what he can really do as a major part of the offense. Whether it would be "Linsanity: Part II" is hard to say, but at the very least, Lin could legitimately have his All-Star dream be a realistic one with some new surroundings.
Either way you slice it, Lin may be able to do a lot of things if he stays with the Rockets. He may win an NBA title, he may be a big cog off the bench, he might even become a big part of the Houston community. But he won't be a star, and he'll certainly never make the All-Star Game, not for any lack of talent, but rather because of the lack of opportunities to show them. However, that doesn't mean he can't become a star somewhere else where the pastures are greener and the shots are plentiful. And at this time when he's 25, young, popular and nearing his physical peak, maybe the time for him to start thinking about exiting stage right from Houston might be sooner rather than later.