Jeremy Lin’s return to Madison Square Garden went about as well as he could have expected.
The Houston Rockets defeated the New York Knicks 109-96 on Monday night. It was Lin’s first game in New York since signing with Houston.
Lin was one of the keys to the Rockets blowout victory. He scored 22 points, going 9-15 from the field. The point guard also added eight assists, four rebounds and two steals.
The performance came in a much-anticipated return, after the Knicks refused to match the Rockets offer sheet of $25 million over three years. Before Houston offered Lin the deal, it was assumed by most people, including New York head coach Mike Woodson, that Lin would return to the team this season.
Instead, New York traded for Raymond Felton and signed Jason Kidd to fill the point guard role on the team. Both players struggled in Monday’s loss, combining to miss 18 of 27 shots.
Did New York make the wrong decision to let Lin sign with Houston?
This year’s meetings between the Knicks and Rockets would certainly suggest that the Knicks should have held onto Lin. The two teams faced each other in Houston in November, and Lin led an offense that scored 131 points against New York. He showed how explosive he can be on offense, getting to the hoop with ease, and setting up good shots for his teammates.
The two games, though, are only a small part of Lin’s 2012-2013 season. His first year with the Rockets has been an inconsistent one. Lin has struggled shooting from the field, and has even sat in favor Toney Douglas at the end of some games.
Houston and Lin handed New York two losses, but they’ve only been beaten four times, besides those games. The Knicks have the best record in the East, and probably wouldn’t be doing much better with Lin at point guard.
Carmelo Anthony, who called Lin’s $25 million contract “ridiculous,” sat Monday’s game with a sprained ankle. He’s been the biggest reason for the Knicks success, averaging 27.9 points per game. If Lin had stayed in New York, he might not be putting up MVP caliber numbers.
Through 24 games, Lin and James Harden have had trouble excelling on the court at the same time. Both players are at their best with the ball in their hands. With just one ball, they have found it difficult to be a dynamic backcourt.
Felton and Kidd’s ability to play off the ball has made them a perfect fit to play with Anthony. The point guard duo are making 39 and 44 percent of their three-point shots, respectively, hitting open shots that are created by Anthony.
But Monday night showed the kind of potential Lin has. The backcourt of Lin and Harden played well off the ball, and were effective playing together. If they can learn to share the ball like that for the rest of the season, the Rockets can become a force in the West.
Only time will tell if the Knicks made the right decision. Their record indicates that replacing Lin with Felton was the right move. However, Monday’s performance proved that if Lin ever plays to his full potential, the Knicks could be looking back at this past offseason as a lost opportunity.