For the first time since the Knicks traded him to the Rockets this past summer, Jeremy Lin will be stepping on the court in New York City's Madison Square Garden.
Hoopsvibe's quick call: Tonight's game could possibly be one of the most significant games of Jeremy Lin's career.
I wrote an article at the beginning of this season where I made cases for a handful of players I thought would have breakout seasons in 2012-13. One of the players on my list was Jeremy Lin, who was traded from the Knicks to the Rockets over the summer.
By now we all know Lin's story. When the Harvard graduate was called up from the D-League to play for the Knicks last year, he capitvated the city of New York by leading a then struggling franchise on an incredible winning streak during the month of February, before a season-ending knee injury halted what was one of the most inspiring months of basketball by any player in NBA history. Even though Lin spoke publicly and candidly about how he preferred to remain with the Knicks, he was suspequently traded to the Rockets this offseason.
I had faith (and still do, btw) that we would all see a healthy Lin in Houston emerge into one of the league's better guards. So far, however, Lin hasn't lived up to anyone's expectations, especially his own.
When asked to assess his play so far this year, Lin had this to say:
"Terrible. I think I'm not doing close to what I'm capable of doing and it's a matter of figuring out how to get myself to play more like myself within the system with the change of scenery. I'll be my harshest critic but I'll go ahead and say it: I'm doing terrible."
You have to admire his honesty. And he's right. Lin hasn't been doing what he's capable of doing. In the 23 games as a starting guard for the Rockets this season, Lin is averaging a mediocre 10.8 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds per game and is shooting less than 40% from the field. Yesterday, Lin and the Rockets suffered a loss to the 6-19 Toronto Raptors, who are easily one of the league's worst teams. Lin finished that game with just seven points, on 3-9 shooting, with more turnovers than assists (3-2) in 33-minutes of play. And according to Dan Devine of Yahoo! Sports, aside from the game where the Rockets beat the Knicks in Houston a few weeks ago, Lin's performance since has "been downright pedestrian."
Lins's biggest problem has been his shooting. Sharing the back court with a guy like James Harden, who is consistently driving and dishing the ball, means Lin is finding himself in more catch-and-shoot scenarios. But according to Devine and Hoopsdata's shot-location stats, "at this stage in his development, Lin's just not a great shooter; he's making just 30 percent of his tries from between 10 and 15 feet out, 25 percent of his shots from between 16 and 23 feet, and 31.5 percent of his 3-point tries."
Despite his struggles, Lin has at times this season, shown us he is plently capable of being an impact player in the NBA. Last Monday, Lin put up a career-high 38 points against the Spurs, who are currently tied with the Thunder with the best record in the league. Lin played 42 minutes that game, made all 12 of his 12 free-throw attempts, had seven assists and only turned the ball over twice. Interestingly enough, Harden was sidelined with an injury that game against the Spurs, which is another interesting caveat to the Rockets' guard play, being that Harden and Lin have both been known to play better without the other in the lineup.
I still have faith in Jeremy Lin, but in order for him to return to performing at a high level, he's going to have to really adapt to his role in the Rockets system as sidekick to James Harden.
The Rockets enter tonight's game at the Knicks with an 11-12 record. And for Jeremy Lin, it's an amazing opportunity to go into the building that elevated his NBA career, and show the world, and his former team, what he's capable of.
For more news and updates follow us on twitter @hoopsvibe
Image source: WENN Images