Jeremy Lin is looking for a fresh start in the 2014-2015 season, joining the Los Angeles Lakers as the team’s starting point guard. After failing to live up to lofty expectations in his two years with the Houston Rockets, the 25-year-old begins the next phase of his career in Southern California, and gets the chance to face his former team in his Lakers debut.
It's been a unique journey for the former Harvard standout who was in the D-League as early as 2011. Houston signed Lin in 2012 when few thought there was any chance he would leave New York. Lin failed to recapture the magic he enjoyed with the Knicks at the height of “Linsanity" in 2011-2012 and the Rockets practically gave him away in an offseason trade this summer. It didn’t take long for him to meet with Houston, who visits L.A. in Tuesday’s season opener.
For Lin, his first game with the Lakers could be a chance to prove that the Rockets gave up on him too soon. He was given a three-year, $25 million deal and the starting job when he joined the Rockets. One season into his contract, Lin was relegated to the bench in favor of defensive specialist Patrick Beverley, after averaging 13.4 points and 6.1 assists per game.
“I don’t know,” Lin told reporters when asked if the Rockets gave him a fair shake. “I have to think about that one.”
Lin was largely used as a backup, though injuries to other players forced him into the starting lineup 33 times last year. While it can be debated whether or not Lin was benched too soon, he didn’t exactly make the most of his opportunities in 2013-2014. He was tied for 37th among point guards with 6.9 assists per 48 minutes, and ranked 45th at the position with a 1.67 assist-to-turnover ratio. However, Lin has battled his own share of injuries in recent seasons, and could be poised for improved production this season.
In Los Angeles, Lin might have a better opportunity to shine than he did in Houston. With the Rockets, he had to compete with Dwight Howard, James Harden and Chandler Parsons for the ball. Lin thrives when he is one of the top scoring options, and that should be the case with the Lakers.
Steve Nash is done for the season, making Lin the clear option to start with Kobe Bryant in the backcourt. The Lakers are lacking in scoring talent, and they will have little choice but to rely on Lin to be a major part of the offense.
Assuming he doesn’t get injured, Lin has 82 games to prove that he’s a better player than what he showed during his time with the Rockets. With such a long season ahead, Lin is downplaying the significance of facing his former club.
“I’m going to want to come out and establish myself and my presence regardless of who it is,” Lin said. “The fact that it’s Houston and opening night makes it really exciting, but there’s nothing extra to the fact that it’s Houston to be honest.”
The Lakers-Rockets matchup is one of three games on the NBA's opening night. Lin makes his return trip to Houston on Nov. 19.