Lin takes next step in his NBA career | July 20, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - July 20, 2012

Lin takes next step in his NBA career

by Jason Friedman

First things first: You'll be seeing no puns here in this space. Not now, not ever. That's a promise. Well, maybe.

That means no more Linsanity. No more Lin Star State. No more Linsane asylum.

The fact of the matter is that Palo Alto High grad Jeremy Lin is much more than a ready-made moniker made for easy headlines. He's not just some Disney movie come to life. And despite what you may have heard, he's also far more than a mere marketing machine.

Jeremy Lin is a basketball player. And he's a pretty good one at that. It has just taken this long for the NBA world to discover it.

That's why he went from the Golden State Warriors' bench two seasons ago to commanding a $25.1 million, three-year deal from the Houston Rockets this week, after the New York Knicks declined to keep their restricted free agent point guard.

"A year ago, I was just trying to stay alive and fight day by day, just to be on a roster," Lin said. "What I have now is way more than I ever would have dreamed of, and way more than I need."

On Thursday, Lin was formerly introduced to the Houston media, and had this to say.

On the Rockets:

"The biggest thing is the fact I know what this organization is about. I was in training camp with coach McHale, I know what he is about and what to expect."

On the past 12 months:

"It's been an unbelievable ride. A lot of things happened that I didn't expect to happen. I still have to keep reminding myself this is all happening."

On former Houston star Yao Ming:

"We text back and forth it was more congratulatory. When things settle down I will be talking to him."

On his surgically repaired knee:

"It's better. I'm almost to the point I have the same explosiveness as before."

On free-agency and the Knicks:

"Coming into free-agency, I didn't expect to be anywhere beside New York. I wouldn't have signed an offer sheet if I wasn't excited about playing here. I'm thankful for what the Knicks did for me last year. We developed a friendship on that team last year that will last a lifetime."

On the future?

"I just want to focus on getting better as a person and a player."

While there has been plenty of pros and cons regarding Lin in his brief NBA career, here are some numbers behind the phenomenon:

The Harvard alum averaged 14.6 points, 6.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds in his injury-shortened 35-game season. During a span of 25 stars, Lin accumulated 455 points and 192 assists. The only NBA player to match both those numbers in that period was current U.S. Olympian Chris Paul, with 548 points and 226 assists.

If his points and assists were averaged out over 36 minutes last season, Lin's 19.6 points and 8.3 assists were better than former Rocket point guards Kyle Lowry (16.0 and 7.4) and Goran Dragic (15.9 and 7.2).

Lin was a very good pick-and-roll player and a spectacular performer out of the isolations last year. His Synergy stats in those categories: .797 points per possession when operating out of the pick-and roll, good enough to rank him in the 63rd percentile at his position, and a whopping 1.022 points per possession in iso situations, which put him in the NBA's 95th percentile. Those numbers are downright elite. And just in case you're wondering, the bread and butter of McHale's offense is the pick-and-roll.

Lin will have the ball in his hands a ton and he, like Lowry and Dragic did before him, can be expected to thrive as the primary playmaker driving the team's offense.

Lin is an excellent rebounder for his position. His 6.6 rebound rate put him 16th among all point guards last year and his 11.1 defensive rebound rate was good enough for 13th overall.

Lin gets to the free-throw line in bunches. He averaged 5.2 free throw attempts per game last season, placing him 6th among all point guards in that category. And during his jaw-dropping January run, he bulled his way to the line more than seven times per game.

Lin has promise on the defensive end, as well. He ranked in the 68th percentile at his position when defending the pick-and-roll ball handler, and though some of that is surely do to the presence of Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, Lin's above-average size (6-3, 200 pounds) and strength allow him the ability to fight and work his way through screens. And though steals are by no means a strong metric of defensive ability, it's worth pointing out that Lin ranked in the league's top 10 at the point guard position by averaging 1.57 thefts per game. Like all young players (Lin is just 23), the Harvard product has plenty of work to do to improve on the defensive side of the ball. But newsflash: the lightning-quick point guards of this league give everyone fits. Lin's smarts and work ethic, however, should help him steadily improve over time.

About that work ethic: Lin is a gym rat and you'll find absolutely no one in the league who doubts his dedication to learning and mastering his craft. Lin will live in the Rockets' practice court and weight room, and will devour as much film as the club's staff can prepare for him. He'll put in the time to ensure his shooting improves (and it already improved greatly from the year before) and turnovers decrease.

And for those still clinging to the belief that Lin is some kind of flash in the pan, it's certainly worth noting that the Rockets' track record at identifying quality point guard prospects over the past five years has been first rate. From Aaron Brooks to Lowry to Dragic, this Houston regime has consistently pinpointed players who know how to play the position, regardless of whether or not the general public had already caught on when they were acquired.

Lin is not a finished product. And that, perhaps, is the most exciting aspect of all. The world watched as his storybook tale unfolded and it was undoubtedly amazing. But what if the best is yet to come? What if the Lin saga is only just beginning?

We're all about to find out the answer. So forget about the puns (OK, maybe just one more). The only thing that truly matters: Jeremy Lin can play and help the Rockets win games. And there's nothing Linsane about that.