Last week, Houston Rockets G.M. Daryl Morey broadcast to over 35,000 Twitter followers his regret at not keeping Jeremy Lin.
Most fans perceived the candid moment as a deserved slice of humble pie for Morey, as the Taiwanese terror and Harvard graduate was cut by the Rockets after the preseason in favor of Johnny Flynn (yikes). Of course, “Linsanity” has now gripped the NBA, and the legions of teams who passed on him all appear foolish.
But despite Lin’s fiery assumption to the NBA’s elite, should Houston really feel that guilty?
Lin just received the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award, a no-brainer, and his jersey sales have peaked atop the NBA. On the verge of the cutting blade once again after an emergency D-League call-up to the New York Knicks, who claimed him off waivers, Lin proceeded to score 109 points in his first four starts. This counted as the most by any player in his first four starts since the ABA-NBA merger. He eventually would lead New York to a five-game winning steak despite the injury-induced absences of stars Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, and averaged 27 points, eight assists, and two steals per game along the way. Perhaps the seminal moment came in a Friday night showdown versus Kobe Bryant’s Lakers at Madison Square Garden, after Bryant feigned ignorance to Lin’s budding stardom and Lin prompted to score 38 points in a surprise Knicks win.
So, what is the point of all this? Lin is obviously a good player who should be here to stay, and he had one of the most surreal weeks an NBA player could have. Toting an economics degree, he also appears to have the proper head on his shoulders to avoid a quick burnout like so many “flash in the pans” before him. Lin’s star may fizzle a bit when New York’s ball-hogging scorers return. It may not. I hope for his growing bandwagon of fans, and recent jersey consumers, that he continues to play at such a high-level and prove detractors wrong, much like that quarterback in Denver who shall not be named.
But the point is that Houston should not be ripped for doing exactly what teams like the Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors did before them — cut Jeremy Lin. Half of the NBA game is mental, and while I’m not sure what went on during those Rockets’ practices, Lin’s rapid ascension to NBA glory has much to do with renewed confidence. He has always possessed the tools to get to the basket and score, but now it appears as if he has the swagger to match them. Obviously, this swagger was missing in Houston, and why wouldn’t it be? How much confidence should an undrafted Ivy Leaguer seemingly destined to bounce around the D-League have?
And even if Houston decided to keep Lin, would it have made a difference? Would he have received his chance to shine? Kyle Lowry is the unquestioned starter for the Rockets and isn’t relenting his position anytime soon, while the Knicks were an absolute mess at point guard before Lin’s emergence (Mike Bibby and Toney Douglas — ’nuff said). The opportunity was ripe for him to play in New York, while he would have suffered difficulty in surpassing Lowry and Goran Dragic in Houston. It’s difficult to say Houston made a mistake not keeping Lin when he wouldn’t have beat out Lowry for playing time anyway. “Linsanity” wouldn’t exist, and the only triple-doubles he would be accumulating are stacks of empty water cups.
Now, if Lowry goes down with any sort of significant injury in 2012 and Coach Kevin McHale is forced to wield Johnny Flynn as a back-up, then I will happily recant what I said and lambast the Rockets for their inane decision. Regardless, what do you think?
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