The questions are out there. Was Jeremy Lin just a flash in the pan? Is he the point guard for the new-look Houston Rockets?
The buzz of Linsanity has quieted to a whisper. As a result, for the first time in a long time, Lin is in his comfort zone.
“I’m where I’ve been my whole life,” he said in a phone interview. “I’m not worried.”
Lin, the Bay Area native and former Golden State Warrior, is entering his fourth season out of Harvard. And he’s hoping to recapture the magic by letting it go.
No more trying to live up to the standard he set for that historic month in New York. No more trying to justify the three-year, $25 million contract he signed with Houston. No more trying to prove to people they are wrong about him, that he belongs.
His mindset now is about enjoying the ride.
“Mentally, I’m in a place where I want to enjoy the game more,” Lin said. “I want to enjoy the season more. Just me getting older and realizing, I’m fine. … Everything happened so fast. I haven’t had a chance to really catch my breath completely. It’s something I’m definitely thankful for. I’m learning every year, more and more, to be thankful, to enjoy it. That’s something I don’t think I’ve always done because I’ve been so ambitious.”
In many ways, Lin is starting over. His first full season as a Rocket wasn’t a disaster by any stretch. He played all 82 games, averaging 13.4 points, 6.1 assists and 3.0 rebounds. He shaved a half a turnover off his average and improved his 3-point shooting.
But it wasn’t, by any stretch, Linsanity — which in the eyes of many made it a failure. Lin’s eyes included.
His efficiency dropped and his impact on the game lessened, largely because of the presence of star guard James Harden. What’s more, his confidence took a hit. By the time the playoffs arrived, Lin’s role was drastically reduced. Battling injury, he averaged 11 fewer minutes in the first round series against Oklahoma City, managing just 6.9 points per game on 25 percent shooting.
“I could tell their confidence in me wasn’t the same,” Lin said. “I don’t think the organization has lost complete faith in me. But it was obvious the confidence wasn’t the same when I was sitting in the fourth quarter.”
Lin said the acquisition of Dwight Howard changes things. Sure, the expectations of the team are now higher and the attention increased. But Lin said Howard alleviates some of the pressure on him.
The fate of the franchise is much less reliant on Lin. Howard, and Harden, will bear the brunt of the expectations. Lin gets to be a role player and do his work in the shadows.
“Going into last year, there were a lot of unknowns with me trying to live up to the Linsanity and what not,” Lin said. “I think one of the cool things about things about this year is there is a lot of pressure on other people, not necessarily just on me.”
He can’t hide his happiness over how things have died down.
He can move freely without being mobbed, though the Bay Area and New York still gets hype to see him. He can steal moments to pay attention to the lessons he’s being taught from experience.
“God is teaching me so much through all of it,” says Lin, a devout Christian who still makes time to share his testimony at home and abroad. “God’s teaching me how to surrender at each step. At the end of the day it comes down to the fact that I’ve seen God work in my life, I’ve seen God’s power in my life. Why am I here? Not from my own doing or my own greatness. He put me here. And if anyone doesn’t believe me, they can just look at my life story.”
Lin said he’s eager to see how he produces under the fog of peace. Yeah, he hears he doubters still. He knows many have written him off.
But Lin wants to get back to playing basketball for the love of the game and not for validation. That’s how he thrived at Harvard. That’s how he played in summer league, where he earned his contract with the Warriors. That’s how Linsanity happened. When he wasn’t playing for anyone else.
So now, even though the Rockets have championship aspirations, Lin’s going to try his old approach.
“I’m going to go in every day with a smile on my face and try to enjoy it as much as I can,” he said. “I’m going to work hard. If I have another breakout year, so be it.”