Jeremy Lin reminds me of an NFL quarterback. He probably didn't deserve the mounds of praise heaped on him during his transcendant run last year in New York and he hasn't deserved the beating he's taken on message boards and radio call-in shows during his struggles in Houston. He didn't get signed to a max dollar contract in the offseason and no one outside of crazed fans thought he would dominate as a playmaking point guard for the Rockets.
The most callous among fans have suggested his primary value is that he is Asian and can keep alive the ties the Rockets have thanks to Yao Ming. But, as usual in this era of heightened fan participation, it's all about perception. In New York, Lin came off the bench and out of nowhere to lead the Knicks, a team with stars and promise but not nearly enough wins to show for it. In Houston, he was, by some overzealous fans and members of the media, labeled a savior for the franchise.
Neither was true. So far in his Houston tenure, we have seen the best and worst of the young guard. From decreased minutes in crunch time and horrid shooting to career highs and dynamic athleticism. It's all been on display and it's both frustrating and exhilarating.
On Monday, the Rockets faced the buzz saw that is the San Antonio Spurs, who they had fallen to just three days earlier in San Antonio -- a game where they trailed by as many as 33. That first loss came right after a come from behind win against the Lakers and was followed by a depressing loss to the Mavericks.
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Monday night, however, the Rockets, playing without James Harden, who was nursing a minor injury, gave the Spurs everything they could handle, ultimately falling in overtime. Lin was spectacular, scoring 38 points on 11-21 shooting including 4-5 from the three-point line and dishing seven assists. The range of his skills was on full display and Linsanity was in full effect.
But this is a team short on talent at the moment. They have some pieces. Harden is a legit scorer with year-in-year-out all-star potential. Chandler Parsons is a solid player at small forward with a good work ethic and better than advertised defense. Omer Asik is the kind of center a team can win with -- he rebounds, is unselfish and has a nice touch around the basket.
After you get beyond the top three or four players, however, it gets dicey. They have a bundle of young, inexperienced players (minus Carlos Delfino) that still haven't found their games. They are still fully loaded with tweeners and "stretch fours," leaving them thin at guards and perimeter defenders.
This team is still one full offseason and one good to great player away from being a threat in the west. As fun as Linsanity (and Beardsanity) is for fans, it is not reality and no one should treat it, or Lin, as such. Let him be what he is: a good playmaker who can be an important contributor on a contending team. But it will take more than him and Harden to get that done.