Palo Alto's Jeremy Lin is leaving the bright lights and media glare of New York and taking his all-around basketball game to the heat and humidity of Houston, perhaps leaving Linsanity behind.
Lin, who became a Rocket on Tuesday night when the Knicks declined to match Houston's free-agent offer of $25.1 million over three years, flew into town Wednesday afternoon. He will be introduced at a press conference on Thursday.
"I'm definitely extremely excited to be back," Lin said in an interview with FOX 26 Sports. "Houston has been a great organization to me. When I left earlier it wasn't on bad terms. So I'm definitely very, very excited to be back and play for Coach (Kevin) McHale.
"It's been very crazy," the 23-year-old Lin said. "I'm just extremely excited, thankful and humbled to be here."
Lin had become a global phenomenon when he became the first player in NBA history to score at least 20 points and pass for seven assists in his first five starts this past season.
"HUGE Congrats to @JLin7!," former Knicks' teammate Landry Fields tweeted. "So excited for you and all the great things to come . . . Houston, you got yourself a good one!"
The Rockets made it tough for the Knicks to sign off on keeping the Paly grad him by backloading their offer sheet with a $15 million salary in the third season. If the Knicks agreed to that deal, they would've faced a hefty luxury tax in 2014-15 because of other big contracts on their books -- between $30-40 million.
Lin now returns to Houston, where he spent about two weeks in December during training camp. The Rockets liked what they saw in the undrafted point guard, but had to waive him because they had Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic on the roster.
The New York Times initially reported the Knicks' decision, citing an unidentified person briefed on the situation.
One sports consultant said the adjustment to the offer sheet was a stroke of genius by Rockets' general manager Daryl Morey.
The Knicks, though, gave Lin his first shot, picking him up after the Rockets waived him. He was briefly demoted to the developmental league, recalled and finally got his chance when coach Mike D'Antoni put him in with the Knicks floundering at 8-15. Lin scored a career-high 25 points in a 99-92 win over New Jersey Nets and Linsanity was born.
But Lin proved more than just an overnight sensation he had 28 and 23 points in his first two NBA starts, and then scored a career-high 38 in a 92-85 victory over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The stock price for Madison Square Garden Inc. surged on the production and popularity of the team's international star. Lin also made the Sports Illustrated cover in consecutive weeks, only the 12th athlete to hold that distinction since 1990. On Tuesday, Lin had more than 829,000 followers on Twitter.
Houston has been trying to put together a package of assets and draft picks to offer Orlando in exchange for disgruntled all-star centre Dwight Howard. In the process, the Rockets lost the unrestricted free agent Dragic to Phoenix, then traded Lowry to Toronto in exchange for a future first-round pick with lottery protection.
With no true point guard left on the roster, the Rockets turned back to Lin. The Knicks may have shown their hand when they brought back Raymond Felton in a sign-and-trade deal with Portland.