Daryl Morey's incessant shuffling of second-rate players over the past few seasons, constantly tweaking and tinkering looking for "assets," came to an almost comical head last week when a player the Rockets cut in the offseason to make room for Jonny Flynn, who they acquired from Minnesota, came to the forefront with the Knicks doing damage to the Rockets in more ways than one.
Let me first start by explaining who Jeremy Lin is exactly. The Harvard-educated California native point guard went un-drafted last year before signing with the Golden State Warriors. He played in 29 games averaging 2.6 points per game. He also spent 20 games in the NBA Developmental League.
He was signed in the offseason by the Rockets, but waived after the Rockets traded with Minnesota to pick up Flynn, a talented former first-round pick at guard, who hadn't fulfilled his potential.
And that's where things start to get interesting.
Last week, seemingly out of nowhere, the struggling Knicks gave Lin his first start and he delivered. Lin scored 25 points, had 7 assists and 5 rebounds in a close win over the rival New Jersey Nets. He followed up that performance with 28 points and 8 assists, playing 45 minutes in a win over Utah Monday night. Needless to say, Knicks fans are going nuts over the guy.
Rockets fans, on the other hand, are less than thrilled. Not only has Lin exploded onto the scene in New York, but the guy he was waived for, Flynn, has barely managed to get unglued from the bench. He's played in only seven games this season, averaging a career-worst three points per contest. He has recently come up in trade talks and the two teams who have shown most interest ironically include New York.
To make matters worse, the Rockets own the Knicks' first-round pick this season and, up until Lin's appearance, New York had been playing right into the Rockets' hands. With injuries to key starters and lackluster play on the whole, that pick was looking better and better. Now, they have Lin, who probably isn't a savior, but has at least resurrected hope and given them some momentum.
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It's a complicated mess that happens when your team acquires a bunch of middling players in hopes of landing a big prize and misses, as they did with the failed Pau Gasol trade they believed would also net them Nene and a completely revitalized front line. Instead, they are mired in a quagmire of mediocrity with not a lot of hope of shaking free before the NBA trade deadline on March 15.
They better hope all that cap room they will have this summer entices a marquee player or they will be right back where they started: purgatory.