Toward the end of the film “Se7en,” two detectives are driving a serial killer to a supposed location of one of the killer’s victims. The serial killer, played by Kevin Spacey, tries to convince the detectives of the lasting importance of his acts.
One of the detectives, played by Brad Pitt, dismisses the serial killer’s claims by saying, “You’re a T-shirt. You’re a Movie of the Week.”
That pretty much sums up Jeremy Lin.
The Houston Rockets have dubbed their 2012-2013 season “The New Age.” It couldn’t be more evidenced than by a ride around town … a glimpse at the media guide … a glance at their pocket calendar.
No, they are not promoting Kevin Martin.
The guys on that there billboard are Jeremy Lin, of course, along with Chandler Parsons and two of Houston’s warehouse full of rookies, Donatas Montejunas and Royce White.
The 2011-12 team that flamed out so badly at the end of last season is gone. Almost all of them, including key components Kyle Lowry (who was dealt to Toronto for a future No. 1 pick, top protected 1-3 only next June) and Luis Scola, who was amnestied as part of GM Daryl Morey’s failed attempt to acquire Dwight Howard. The only major holdover is Martin.
Front and center in each case is Lin, and this is indeed going to be a challenging new chapter in his career textbook.
While his fan base still remains strong – there were a couple of people wearing Lin Knicks jerseys at the Toyota Center on Wednesday night – a team that is projected to fall outside the playoffs simply can’t lead SportsCenter. While the expectations for Lin’s team are low, the demand for standout play from him is at an all-time high.
For one, that could only be expected of a player who has garnered a three-year, $25.1 million contract. But even more, Lin comes to Houston as the No. 1 or 2 scoring option on any given night.
Yes, Lin was the center of the spotlight in New York for a while, but he was only briefly the center of the offense — a lot of which had to do with New York’s injuries.
Even still, he was flanked by players who kept defenses honest. Steve Novak knocked down 3-pointers at an NBA-high clip. J.R. Smith, as intellectually frustrating his play might be, still commands respect from defenses. Tyson Chandler pick-and-rolled his way to the league’s highest field-goal percentage. Carmelo Anthony wasn’t at his best, but he was still ‘Melo. Amar’e Stoudemire was not an All-Star last season, but any coach who tells you they would pay more attention to Lin rather than STAT was being disingenuous.
That cast of sidekicks have been replaced by Martin, Patrick Patterson, the offensively challenged Omer Asik, a host of unproven rookies and the aforementioned Parsons. Needless to say, the talent just isn’t as prevalent.
So here lies Lin. With only 25 starts under his waistband – as spectacular as they were – he is now asked to do it again, and possibly even more.
And this time, over the course of an 82-game season, not a condensed 66-game campaign.
While the national media coverage won’t be as heavy, defenses will. The reckless abandon with which Lin attacks the rim with won’t be there as much with opponents sagging off the perimeter. With less talent around him, he might actually be forced to pass more than he did in New York, where he was a high-turnover player.
The verdict isn’t in yet on whether his new teammates will capitalize on these passes or watch them sail overhead.
And lest we forget, there is also the pleasure that some of the NBA’s finest point guards take in hazing Lin. Deron Williams’ 38-point drubbing last year at Madison Square Garden comes to mind.
And recently, there was Russell Westbrook dropping 16 points in the first six minutes on Lin in the preseason.
While people in New York cheered for Lin to continue at his rampaging pace, nobody expected it on a daily basis. It was almost like an added bonus. Knicks fans felt Anthony should give them about 23-30 points, Stoudemire should give another 20 and if somehow Lin can manage to drop 15 again, they should be fine.
Now it is no longer a question of whether Lin can score 15-plus points. He has to for the Rockets to have any type of respectable season.
These expectations are all new to Lin. In his recent GQ magazine interview, the Rockets’ new cover boy admitted he didn’t even see himself as an NBA player at one point. Now, his contract and Houston’s management have thrust him into a leadership role. With Lin’s minimal experience, it is almost like the blind leading the blind. Let’s just assume that Carlos Delfino – Houston’s longest tenured player at seven years – won’t be the source of a playoff run.
There were some encouraging signs Wednesday night in Houston’s preseason bout with Memphis. Following a sit-down with coach Kevin McHale, Lin was more aggressive at pushing the pace and trying to cause havoc. It resulted in a game-high 12 assists and five steals.
There have been some negatives, too. With the lane clogged more than it was in New York, Lin has seen more contested jumpers, which may explain his 7-of-28 shooting. He has had to throw up 3-pointers to keep defenses honest. Problem is, he still has yet to hit one, going 0-of-8 in four contests. It’s going to be a steep learning curve, to say the least.
With Lin’s play being scrutinized, his defenders have been consistent in pointing out that he simply isn’t 100 percent healthy. Yes, that 85 percent left knee (or however you wanted to wanted interpret his statement last April) is still not there yet. Some will say that he needs time to recover and find that comfort level again. Others will say its just a crutch Lin is using to buy himself more time.
Well, the season is less than two weeks away, and some have already grown weary of the act, whether true or not. The Houston Chronicle reported that the Rockets coaches were disappointed in Lin’s lack of intensity in coming back from the injury. According to the report, the coaches felt like he wasn’t pushing himself as much as he could and simply was being too cautious.
Time is running out on the knee excuse. Time is also running out for Martin – or his contract, to be precise. Martin is a free agent next summer, and you can expect the career 18-point scorer to be more than happy to shoot his way into his next four-year deal. Stripped of any promotional cachet after being the team’s leading scorer last season, Martin likely sees the writing on the wall. So does Lin.
In Thursday’s news conference, McHale told reporters about Lin asking him how he was worried about making sure Martin gets the ball. McHale told Lin that he’d rather have him look for the open man and just have the ball constantly moving.
It’s ironic. In New York, under former coach Mike D’Antoni, Lin was encouraged to do the same thing – run pick-and-rolls, find the open man and don’t settle for just isolating Anthony or Stoudemire. He agreed and hoisted shots that didn’t necessarily make Anthony too happy.
In Houston, absent of that same star power alongside him, Lin has been reliant on the scoring prowess of Martin, who is only too happy to oblige and is an early favorite to end Kobe Bryant’s two-year hold on most FGAs.
Still, Martin can only score so much. And only so much can be expected from a trio of rookies who have yet to play any meaningful games. Terrence Jones has been impressive this preseason and Jeremy Lamb has shown signs of being a smooth scorer. But Royce White’s anxiety issues – his fear of flying has cost him desperately needed practices and games – is below the curve.
GM Daryl Morey, who spent the summer stockpiling young but unproven talent in his unsuccessful bids for Howard and Andrew Bynum, might still have the chance to jettison some of that talent for a big name, but it’s far from a guarantee.
Right now, the biggest name is Lin, who has the responsibility to make sure the Rockets are at least respectable. Houston has finished ninth in the Western Conference three years running with more talented teams.
It is definitely a new day for Lin. A new cast of teammates. A new challenge. It’s a bet – a $25 million one, in fact – that Morey and Rockets were willing to make on Lin, who has a whole new set of expectations to fulfill.
Recently relocated to Houston, Harrison Sanford is a contributor to Sheridan Hoops. He has covered basketball (print and video) since the 2003 NBA Draft, events including the NCAA Tournament, the Big East tournament, McDonald’s All-American Games and the NBPA Top 100 camp. Follow him on Twitter.
SH Blog: Mark Jackson thinks Reggie Miller is right behind Jordan and Bryant as the greatest shooting guard ever
You know the NBA season is inching closer towards us when Power Rankings start to make an appearance. Chris Sheridan published his first Power Rankings of the upcoming season today, so feel free to go there and let him know what you think of how he ranked your team (I wasn’t thrilled about where he put my Warriors). Also, see what we learned about the NBA in the summer of 2012 in Jan Hubbard’s column.
In Tuesday’s news, you’ll find out just how highly Mark Jackson thinks of Reggie Miller, why Rajon Rondo got caught up in all the Jeremy Lin drama, what Taj Gibson expects from himself in the upcoming season and much more:
- Mark Jackson said Reggie Miller is as good as any shooting guard ever, aside from Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, according to Mike Wells of Indianapolis Star: “Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who spent six seasons as Miller’s teammate with the Pacers, puts No. 31 near the top of the list once you remove a couple of guys named Jordan and Kobe. “When you take Michael Jordan and you take Kobe Bryant out of the discussion, he’s as good as any two-guard that has ever played the game,” Jackson said. That’s a pretty bold statement coming from Jackson when you think about the competition to be behind Jordan and Kobe.”
- Jackson then added Dwyane Wade to the list of names better than Miller, as you can see in our Tweet of the Day. If he thinks long and hard, he’d probably add a few more names in there, like Clyde Drexler and Jerry West. Here is why Drexler has the edge on Miller, from Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated: “Clyde Drexler: We’re getting into dicier territory now, but I’m comfortable putting the Glide above Miller. He ranks 79 spots above Miller on the all-time PER list, and like West and Wade, he was just a more dynamic creator than Miller. Drexler averaged between 5.7 and 8.0 assists per game for eight straight seasons in his prime and could help an offense in more ways. He was the linchpin of one of the great teams to never win a title (the late 1980s/early 1990s Blazers), and he had the size to play small forward in three-guard lineups without fatally compromising his team’s defense.”
- Taj Gibson appears to be ready to take on an expanded – including leadership – for the Rose-less Bulls, according to Scott Powers of ESPN Chicago: “Thibs already told me he wants my role to change, be more of a leader now,” Gibson said. “I worked out with him a lot during the summer. I worked out with him before the (Team) USA camp. He just wanted me to work out this whole year, build confidence and get better. He thinks I can do a lot more on and off the court. I’m ready to take that next step.” Gibson thought the next step was being more of an all-around player.”Just playing more solid, just coming in knocking down some 15-footers, back-to-the-basket play, a lot of stuff like that I’ve been working on during the offseason, a lot of stuff like that in the USA camp,” Gibson said.”
- In the meantime, Gibson had some fun throwing the first pitch of a White Sox baseball game. You can check the video here (via NBA Mistress)
- Kevin McHale made no secret of the fact that he wished the Rockets had more veterans in his interview with Jason Friedman of NBA.com: “I know this offseason didn’t go exactly the way you wanted it to. I know you would have loved to have acquired that stud, superstar caliber player in the middle to be the anchor of everything you want to do on both ends of the floor. I also know that going young in the NBA typically brings with it a unique set of challenges. That said, does the coach in you get excited by the energy and exuberance of these young guys, and the knowledge that you’re going to play a pivotal role in shaping their growth and approach to the NBA game? KM: It’s the team that we have. To be honest with you, I wish we had more veterans. I’m very competitive. I want to win. We can still win but it’s always much more difficult to win on a consistent basis in this league with young guys. But there is an exciting element of taking kids and teaching them how to play the right way in the NBA, teaching them how to be pros every single day, teaching them how to just get better on a daily basis and how to deal with the ups and downs of the NBA.”
- Rajon Rondo dreamed of being an NFL player and discussed the importance of playing quarterback to shape him as a point guard, from Mathew Scott of South China Morning Post (H/T Kurt Helin): ”I didn’t watch a lot of NBA games growing up,” he says. “I watched the Green Bay Packers. I always had dreams of being an NFL player. I was a high school quarterback and I really think that has helped me become a leader on the basketball court. They are pretty much the same position. The quarterback is the guy who calls all the plays and gets all the attention and the same with the point guard in basketball. You have to hit the open man.” Basketball became a natural progression during high school as his skills – and his reputation – developed. ”I played all three sports growing up – basketball, football and baseball – but I narrowed it down after my first year of high school and realised then I had a chance of making the NBA,” says Rondo. “I was starting to dominate and I don’t want it to sound like I’ve got a big head but the competition around me was easy. At Oak Hill Academy, Josh Smith went straight to the NBA out of high school so I knew then that if I worked on my game I could make the NBA myself.”
- In the same article, Rondo explained why he was also caught in the drama of “Linsanity” last season: “Rondo’s Asian trip comes hot on the heels of a visit by the man who gave the NBA one of the season’s great stories – one-time Knicks and now Houston guard Jeremy Lin. And as an opponent – and a fellow sportsman – Rondo says he, too, was caught in the pure drama of the situation as Lin went from undrafted unknown to superstar in a stint for the Knicks before he fell to injury. ”Well, it was almost the classic Cinderella story. The guy had a great opportunity and he seized his moment,” says Rondo. “That stretch of 15 to 20 games he played really well, until he got hurt. But in this league everyone wants a piece of everyone. When you go against one player, you want to see what he’s made of. ”So once Jeremy Lin got a lot of attention, every point guard now wants to go against him, just like every point guard wants to go against D.Rose and Chris Paul. So every night, the point guard position is tough. He deserved the attention as he played well.”
- Pete Carril, the inventor of the Princeton Offense, believes the Lakers have the proper ingredients to make the Princeton offense work, from Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated: “SI.com: So Coachie, how do you see the Princeton offense fitting in L.A.? Carril: I imagine that if the [Lakers] guys want to do it, and [the coaches] can convince them that it’d better for them, I think they’ll do it. They have the right ingredients, all the passers. They have really good passers there. The only one I don’t really know much about as a passer is Howard. But [Pau] Gasol can pass and he can shoot, and of course Bryant and Nash can shoot, and whatever they call him now [Metta World Peace], I know he can pass. It all depends on Howard, and then what kind of bench they have. I know Jodie Meeks is a shooter. He makes shots. And Antawn Jamison is not a shooter, but he can play. Eddie knows all about him from having coached him in Washington. Generally speaking, that offense doesn’t work when two things are prevalent. One is when they treat it like a robotic thing. And the other is when they don’t want to do it.
- Tracy McGrady may work out for the Bobcats, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer:
- The Nets will play in Brooklyn, but will stay in New Jersey for practice, according to Howard Beck of The New York Times: “The Nets will call Brooklyn home this fall, but you won’t find them bagging organic tomatoes at the Park Slope Food Co-op, antique hunting at the Brooklyn Flea or enjoying a pleasant fall evening on the nearest brownstone stoop. For reasons both practical and personal, the Brooklyn Nets will not be living in Brooklyn, at least for their inaugural season. It is not a matter of preference, but logistics: Although the Nets will play at the new Barclays Center near Downtown Brooklyn, they will still practice at their longtime training center in East Rutherford, N.J. The lease runs two more years.”
- The Clippers announced Gary Sacks’ role with the team, from Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:
- Heat assistant coach and NBA legend Bob McAdoo believes the Thunder are still the team to beat in the West, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post: “We got to get there but I still feel OKC is the team to beat in the West,’’ the Hall of Famer said. “Everyone’s talking about how they got better but I still think they’re the team to beat. They’re still young and have the experience of a championship series.’’ Despite the buzz about the Lakers adding Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, McAdoo expects to see the Thunder again in The Finals if Miami gets through.”
- How far has Greg Oden’s popularity dropped? He was apparently told by some girl to go to the back of the line at a bacardi pool party, from Daye Kaba of 2Day Sports.
- John Wall wants to be the savior, make the All-Star game and the playoffs for the upcoming season.
LOS ANGELES — Dear New York, give the rest of us a break, will you?
Before trying to put Jeremy Lin in some kind of perspective… or whatever you call a judgment based on 45 NBA games, the first 38 as the last man on three different teams’ benches, the last seven as a demigod… I don’t have one bad thing to say about him.
He has been great. He dominated games with great players on the floor like Kobe Bryant (whom he outscored, 38-34) and Deron Williams (whom he outscored 25-21).
He did things he knew how to do (take the ball to the hoop) and things he had barely tried at the NBA level (shoot it from beyond 15 feet).
He averaged 28 points, leading the woebegone 8-15 Knicks, who were in a death spiral, or at least a Mike D’Antoni-terminating-spiral with nine losses in their last 10, on a seven-game winning streak with big cheese Carmelo Anthony, who was supposed to do stuff like this, and Amare Stoudemire, who had devolved into the big cheese’s helper, each missing at least four of them.
This, of course, caused great rejoicing among the fans of Lin’s team.
Since the team was in New York instead of, say, Memphis, this meant the rest of us had to hear about it every minute of every day, as if no one ever did anything like it before.
Of course, no undrafted, twice-waived second-year NBA player ever did do anything like it, but that’s not setting the bar very high.
In any event, a craze was born, named Linsanity.
Of course, this was just a reworking of Vince Carter’s nickname, but originality isn’t the important thing here.
Zooming into gag-me-with-a-spoon stage, the craze produced stories about “Linning” becoming a “meme.”
“Linning” is copying his six-step handshake with teammate Landry Fields.
If you don’t know what a “meme” is, I don’t either, but it sounds very hip.
Of course, how long could it be before Linsanity turned around and devoured Lin?
When Lin thanked God in a post-game interview, it let to a Washington Post story in which his pastor in Mountain View, Calif., noted, “Very early in his life he decided to pay heed to the call of Christ to take up the cross daily and follow after him.”
Thus did Lin became the latest religious/athletic icon, dubbed “the Taiwanese Tebow.”
Not that this was so great.
Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos rookie whose improbable rise from backup quarterback to lead his woebegone team into the playoffs, became a lightning rod, beloved by Christians, viewed skeptically by NFL purists like ESPN commentator Merrill Hoge and believers in separation of church and sport the world over.
It’s true, Tebow got a lot of endorsements because of his following, which he got because of his faith.
On the other hand, Tebow looks like an exemplary, stand-up young guy who works hard, is anything but a self-promoter and has made every team he ever played for a winner.
If Lin has barely uttered a word on the subject since his breakout, the New York Times’ Michael Luo felt obliged to defend him in a column, noting, “I have the sense that his is a quieter, potentially less polarizing but no less devout style of faith.”
He means it’s less polarizing than Tebow’s faith.
Don’t we guarantee freedom of religion around here?
If you think the world is too nuts to go on much longer, keep reading.
Of course, there was soon a backlash, as crazy as the frontlash, er, the original story.
Forget Floyd Mayweather’s dumb, racist jibe about Lin getting his hype because he’s Asian. Boxers, who get hit in the head a lot and whose contests are all one-off promotions, are used to saying outrageous, idiotic and/or bigoted things, and Mayweather is even outrageous for a boxer, as he showed with a stereotype-laden attack at the guy he has ben ducking, Filipino Manny Pacquiao, AKA “that little yellow chump.”
On the other hand, Fox.com’s Jason Whitlock, who’s supposed to be a professional journalist, joined in after Lin got 38 against the Lakers, tweeting, “Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight.”
Whitlock then apologized, putting the blame on “part of my personality–my immature, sophomoric, comedic nature.”
So, if I’m going to assert that Lin’s New York-ness has more to do with this hype than his Asian-ness (at least in North America), and much more to do with it than his Christian-ness, I have to put that in context.
Yes, I root against everything New York, for the same basic reason everyone else does:
Most of us don’t live there.
As fans, we all look down on, resentfully look up at, scorn, root against or say we hate every place we don’t live.
New York, the world’s biggest city, financial center and media center, is hated, feared and admired more than any other city.
Los Angeles, my home, is the nation’s second most hated, feared and admired city, so anything that goes for New York, goes for us, too.
(Actually, with our lavish self-adoration and tricks like calling someone back East and saying, “How’s the weather?” we may be hated every bit as much as New York.)
Chicago may seem like a hayseed capital to people from New York or Los Angeles, but in the 90 percent of the country that lies between the New York and California state lines, it casts its own shadow, causing it to be feared, hated and loved, too.
As in, if I hear one more word about the Cubs curse, or the Red Sox curse, or anyone else’s curse that’s not local, I’m going to lose it.
Same for Dallas in Texas… and Atlanta in the Southeast… and Miami in Florida… and Seattle in the Pacific Northwest, where Trail Blazers fans grumble about being part of the empire of Seattle-based Paul Allen.
Actually, it doesn’t happen to be any of our business what Lin believes, unless he makes it our business, which he hasn’t done.
I can’t imagine anyone who thinks Asians get a break in the NBA or American professional sports getting this deep into this story.
However, if you do, you’re wrong.
The interesting thing about this–apart from watching everyone take leave of their senses in this story–is figuring out how someone waived by two teams could play at this level, and what kind of player he’ll be.
As to how he could be this good and two teams missed it….
Lin is an unusual player. Stereotypes notwithstanding, he’s big for a point guard, measured at 6-3 in stocking feet in the 2010 pre-draft camp.
He also has long arms to go with a killer crossover, so he not only can get to the basket, he’s adept at reaching around defenders to finish.
So, as teams will soon realize, forget about putting someone with short arms, like Derek Fisher, on him.
However, if Lin was a good shooter at Harvard—he shot 52% as a senior, making 34% of his threes—he had yet to show it in the NBA.
Put another way, he had yet to show he was good enough to play enough to settle in and start making shots.
However you put it, before his seven-game run to glory that started Feb. 4, when he came off the bench to score 36 points against the Nets, he was shooting 39 percent for his 38-game career and 1-10 on threes.
That’s how everyone missed on him.
If Golden State owner Joe Lacob doted on Lin, it doesn’t matter whether an undrafted rookie guard can’t shoot, or might be able to if he has time to settle in.
If he doesn’t make some shots right away, he won’t get a chance to settle in.
With the Knicks, it was sheer desperation. After waiving Chauncey Billups to sign Tyson Chandler, their only point guards were rookie Iman Shumpert, who impressed, then turned back into a rookie; injured, slumping combo guard Toney Douglas; and endlessly-rehabbing Baron Davis.
So, Lin, the 10th player Mike D’Antoni puts in against the Nets, catches fire, scoring 36, going 10-19 from the floor (if 0-4 from the arc) and is immediately chosen to make his first NBA start!
Voila! He shows he really does have game, getting to the hoop often enough to score 28 against the Jazz, shooting nine free throws.
Then, when the Lakers do the smart thing, going under the pick-and-rolls and letting Lin take any outside shot he wants, he starts making those, too, going 13-24 from the floor and 2-4 from the arc!
So, what does that make him?
Like I know, or anyone else knows.
At this point, I’d say he looks like a starting NBA point guard, who has everything but shooting range, which will determine if he becomes good, very good or great.
Streaks like his are rare, but we’ve seen them.
In Brandon Jennings’ first seven games on 2009, including his breakout 55-point game, he averaged 25.6 points and five assists. and shot 49 percent.
Since, Jennings has averaged 15 points, shooting 38 percent.
If Lin gets close to his college numbers, 50 percent from the floor, 34 percent on 3s, we’re talking star. If he matches his college numbers, we’re talking major star.
If he can’t shoot at all, neither can Rajon Rondo and Ricky Rubio, and they’re impact players, nonetheless.
Not that Lin is a once-in-a-generation playmaker like Rubio, or an unguardable penetrator like Rondo.
That’s the one thing we do know about him: He’s the first and only Jeremy Lin we’ve ever seen.