Lin: 'I have more freedom to be myself'
Jeremy Lin came to the Rockets to be the face of the franchise. Now, he’s more of a face in the crowd.
But that’s not a bad thing.
“Yeah I think there’s more pressure in the sense that there’s going to be more people focusing on the Rockets but from a personal standpoint I think there’s a lot less pressure,” Lin said at Rockets media day on Friday. “I have a lot more freedom to just be myself. I think last year, there was a lot of uncertainty coming in with Linsanity and all those things and right now it’s calmed down a little bit for sure.”
Lin was the starting point guard for the Rockets last season but after the team traded for James Harden before the season began, he was no longer the marquee name. This offseason, the Rockets signed Dwight Howard. In less than a year, Lin went from being the franchise centerpiece to a role player.
And the 25-year-old guard is excited to fit that role.
“I think for me, I have to be a point guard,” Lin said. “I have to make sure everybody gets involved and control the tempo of the game. There’s a little bit of a different role but I still want to be the same attacking player that I’ve been in the past and really try to be more efficient in terms of picking my spots.”
After an unprecedented 25-game stretch with the Knicks two seasons ago, dubbed Linsanity, the expectations surrounding Lin after signing with the Rockets were incredibly high but Lin failed to be the player that sparked the Linsanity craze.
Lin started all 82 games last season, averaging 14.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
“If people hadn’t seen that month, five weeks in New York, and truthfully that was Jeremy’s first year of playing was last year,” head coach Kevin McHale said. “I mean starting the season, playing 82 games, going through all of the drudgery of back-to-backs and stuff, people would be saying ‘dang! That was a heckuva rookie season for the kid.’ And he had a very good year for us. I really thought he did.”
McHale likened basketball to a game of chess and said the next move is Lin’s. Teams began to play him better and now it is Lin’s turn to figure out how to outplay opponents without the element of surprise, which helped him in New York.
Lin said he worked on his defense, jump shot and left-handed shot this offseason and hopes those things will help him once the season starts in a month.
But what might help Lin the most, though, is simply being back in Houston for a second straight season.
“I came back to the same city I was in the year before and that’s already a big step for me,” he said. “I haven’t done that since junior to senior year of college. So for me to be back in the same spot with the same coaches in the same style and stuff, that’s huge for me in building a level of comfort. I’m a creature of comfort. When I’m comfortable, I play much better.”