Houston Rockets: Was Jeremy Lin Contract for Business or Basketball?

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Mar 16, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin (7) is pressured by Miami Heat forward Shane Battier (31) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Every time my buddy Peter and I have a beer or two, I always try to make him convince me that the Houston Rockets‘ signing of Jeremy Lin was a “basketball move” rather than a “business move”.

The conversation usually concludes with me yelling about the Asian economic market and how much I can’t stand Jeremy Lin’s huge contract; to which Pete usually responds with something along the lines of, “Daryl Morey says that only two-thirds of the league is actually competitive… [And] at that time we definitely signed him for his basketball skills over anything related to marketability.”

So is Jeremy Lin a true product of hard work and persistence, or did the Houston Rockets overpay a player, knowing they could recoup his faults with the money that would be made within the Asian market?

Mar 9, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) and point guard Jeremy Lin (7) embrace following the end of overtime against the Portland Trail Blazers at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports

After graduating from Harvard in 2010,  Jeremy Shu-How Lin was passed on in the NBA draft.

Yet after progressing through the NBA summer league, and putting forth a tenacious effort in workouts, Lin was signed to a tw0 year deal to his hometown team, the Golden State Warriors.

After a stagnant season, Lin was then released and signed off waivers by the Houston Rockets. His first year in Houston involved less opportunity and productivity. Lin was once again waved on Christmas Eve 2011.

Signed three days later by the New York Knicks, he was soon to reach the high point on a tumultuous road to success.

He didn’t receive any college scholarships, he wasn’t drafted, and he was on his third NBA team in less than two years. Who knew the flash of Linsanity would soon follow?

Dec. 17, 2012; New York, NY, USA; A fan holds a sign referring to Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin (not pictured) during the game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Houston won 109-96. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

After a D-league demotion (followed shortly by a promotion), Jeremy Lin found himself fearing for his spot on the Knicks.

With a supposed 48 hours before being cut from the New York roster, Jeremy Lin had his first standout game, scoring 28 points in the win and gaining a new sense of hope that would be translated and trademarked as “Linsanity.”

Over his next 12 starts before the All-Star Break, Jeremy Lin averaged 22.5 points and 8.7 assists.

This run was highlighted by a game in which Lin scored 38 points to beat the Lakers. The game proceeded a controversial statement by Kobe Bryant claiming he didn’t know who Jeremy Lin was. After that game it seemed that Jeremy Lin  had established himself in the league; when asked post-game if Kobe Bryant would remember him  he responded with, “Ask Kobe.”

Mar 9, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin (7) reacts to a made shot during the overtime period against the Portland Trail Blazers at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Lin went into the 2012 offseason, with 26 successful games under his belt in the form of “Linsanity”, searching for a real and guaranteed contract, despite being a restricted free agent.

However, ironically, in the offseason the Houston Rockets offered three year, $25 million dollar “Poison Pill” deal that pays 14.8 million in the final year (and charges the matching team the same amount in cap. For the signing team, it only charges an average annual value each year).

That discouraged the Knicks enough to allow Jeremy Lin to return to Houston (although not before a couple of strange days where Knicks officials reportedly avoided Rockets employees in order to delay the clock starting on their chance to match the contract). He finished his first year in Houston starting 82/82 games with 13.4 PPG and 6.1 APG.

With a lackluster performance in the playoffs and losing to OKC,  Lin found himself settling into mediocrity. So far in 2014 he has averaged 12.4 PPG with 4.3APG behind the scrappy Patrick Beverley. It’s undeniable that Lin brings a substantial amount of income for non-basketball related reasons, but does that justify his colossal contract? Is Houston paying their 6th man starters money for reasons other than basketball?

Mar 9, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin (7) and point guard Patrick Beverley (2) celebrate following the end of overtime against the Portland Trail Blazers at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports

As Jeremy Lin finds himself struggling through the 2014 season, his essence of tenacity is never absent.

He always seems to be fighting for the next possession. Pete and I still have a few drinks discussing how much Jeremy Lin means to the game. He’s overcome racial barriers and stayed true to his love for God and family.

He’s an amazing role model and pretty damn good point guard.

I almost find myself drawing the comparison from Lin to Tim Tebow. A devout religious athlete, with an underestimated passion for the game. People love to hate Jeremy Lin, they also hate to love him.

Too iconized by his character and ethnicity rather than his professional career and ability; it’s difficult for most to form an unbiased and valid opinion about the young Ivy League legend.

Mar 16, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin (7) arrives before a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

I often find myself being a hypocrite with Jeremy Lin.

I am constantly analyzing the financial weight his contract carries, compared to his passion for the game. If Jeremy Lin misses a free throw, I curse at the screen degrading him more than any other player. If he makes a clutch three, I don’t even praise him.

That doesn’t even matter though, because in reality, I am just one of the millions who doubted J-Lin. One of the millions who continues to hold Jeremy Lin to his highest standard. His international market, and worldwide love require a high standard, yet when does that standard become compromising.

Have we started to analyze this player past his potential, and put him on an unreasonable pedestal?

Mar 17, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin (7) drives to the basket during the fourth quarter as Utah Jazz guard Trey Burke (3) defends at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Lin’s story carries lots of baggage.

Racism, tenacity, inconsistent stats; it’s hard to truly understand who he is or what he has done.

His influence in the world market for the NBA is undeniable. His influence on Asian Americans is dank. The story of Jeremy Lin’s passion and tenacity is incomparable.

As a Houstonian, the only verdict that I can agree upon is: Jeremy Lin is “Linsane.”

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