In the case of Jeremy Lin, one year can make a very big difference. With the 2013-2014 NBA season set to begin at the end of the month, the point guard is in a much different position than he was in 2012.
Last offseason, Lin was involved in one of the most high-profile free agent signings when he agreed to a three-year contract with the Houston Rockets. Following “Linsanity,” those around the NBA were curious to see how he would perform in his first full season. Many people were looking for him to come close to matching the success he had with the New York Knicks, but things came more difficult in Houston.
Lin played every regular season game for the Rockets, averaging 13.4 points, 6.1 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game. Those stats were a far cry from the numbers he put up when he first burst onto the scene. In February 2012, when "Linsanity” was born, Lin averaged 20.9 points and 8.4 assists per game, helping to turn around the Knicks season and lead them to the playoffs.
There are a few reasons why Lin struggled in Houston. It was his first year in a new offensive system, and he had only started 25 games in his career before joining the Rockets. However, the biggest obstacle faced was his preoccupation with replicating what he did in New York.
“I became so obsessed with becoming a great basketball player,” Lin said in August. “I was so obsessed with living up to my contract and I became so obsessed with trying to be Linsanity, being this phenomenon that took the NBA and the world by storm.”
As a result of the burden Lin placed on himself, his season ended in disappointment. He battled an injury in Houston’s one playoff series, missing two games and seeing his playing time cut when he was available. Rookie Patrick Beverley proved to be a capable starter in Lin’s absence, and left some fans questioning who should start at point guard.
With a new season approaching, though, Lin is ready to bounce back under less scrutiny. The perception of him has changed, going from a top free agent signee to a supporting member of an NBA championship contender.
In July, Dwight Howard took less money to leave the Los Angeles Lakers and play for Houston. He joins a team that has a starting backcourt of Lin and James Harden, who emerged as a top scorer last season. Now that the Rockets have, potentially, two of the top 10 players in the NBA, Lin is expected to carry less responsibility.
"From a personal standpoint, there's a lot less pressure this season," Lin said. "I've had such a wide spectrum of literally no expectations to having every expectation. Now it's kind of going back down to some lower expectations."
The Rockets are still hoping for Lin to perform at a higher level, considering he showed flashes of brilliance with the Knicks. With less pressure, though, he may find it easier to play up to his potential.
"Learning to manage and deal with expectations and which voices to tune out takes time," Lin said at Rockets media day. "You have to fail at it to get to where you want to get to."
If Lin can turn things around, it could give Houston their best season since they won back-to-back titles two decades ago. Betting odds have the Rockets listed as among the favorites to reach the NBA Finals.