Lin, after all, is still learning how to become an everyday NBA player.
In Brooklyn, despite the underwhelming stat line, Lin’s signature smile was in full effect after the game.
“I think we’re getting more mature as a team and as individuals,” Lin said. “I think this win is a sign of our growth.”
At the moment, the Rockets are 31-26 and lead the Los Angeles Lakers by four games for the West’s eighth and final playoff spot.
In Houston, there is a future, and if you look at it directly, its brightness may blind you.
But in a New York minute, the Knicks wanted to become contenders. Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler are each 30 years old. Carmelo Anthony is 28.
They simply didn’t have the time to wait around for Lin to fulfill his potential.
With them, Lin would not have fit in.
The media coverage came quickly and the fame followed shortly thereafter. The expectations accumulated and the money followed.
All of it, too soon.
With the Knicks, Lin would not have been accepted.
With the Rockets, he’s right at home.
“He’s doing a good job of leading, definitely by example,” Harden said of Lin on Friday night. “He’s going out there and just playing, he’s making shots, making plays, he’s doing everything.”
LOOKING FOR NEW YORK KNICKS TICKETS? LOOK NO FURTHER
With the Rockets, there is no talk of Lin’s fame and there are no lofty expectations.
There’s simply a young basketball team that has grown closer with each passing day.
On Thursday, when Lin got wind of Morey’s deals that sent Cole Aldrich, Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas and Marcus Morris away, he was devastated.
“We’re a close-knit team and we actually really, really care about everybody that got shipped off and it was just really emotional for me,” he told CSN Houston.
“It was really emotional… I guess that’s a part of the business but that’s a tough part for me.”
With the Rockets, Lin was crushed to see his teammates go.
But when asked what he missed most about New York, Lin made not even a peep about those he shared the locker room with. After thinking for a second, he spoke. “I miss the fans,” he said. “Just like how the Garden would get last year and how loud and awesome the experience is.” He paused. He thought some more. “Yeah, that’s all I miss,” he concluded with a chuckle.
And when asked of the major differences between playing in New York and Houston, Lin nodded emphatically as the words rolled out, easily. “Less pressure,” he said. “Less spotlight.”
Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden are different arenas. Different boroughs, different teams, Lin said. But New York is New York. “It will always be special to me,” he said with a smile.
On this night, the storm of media that Lin became accustomed to as a member of the Knicks—and even in his first visit back to the Garden as a member of the Rockets—was nothing more than an isolated cloud.
Even in New York, where a healthy sect of Knicks fans still talk about Lin and how the current team would fare with him as its lead guard, Linsanity has passed.
It’s over. Now, thankfully, Lin can just focus on becoming a basketball player.
“We’re getting there, and I’m really happy with where we’re at right now,” Lin said of his Rockets.
And where he is, is far, far away from New York.
He misses the fans, he misses the Garden. The spotlight, his teammates, the dysfunction?
The jealousy, the envy, the expectations?
Not so much.
For 205 days, Lin was a Knick.
For 205 days, Lin was a New Yorker.
That was then, this is now.
And for Lin, the now, in Houston with Harden and the Rockets, is a better situation, all-around.
Moke Hamilton is a Senior NBA Columnist for SheridanHoops. Follow him on Twitter: @MokeHamilton