HOUSTON -- Linsanity officially ended at 11:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
At that moment, point guard Jeremy Lin became a member of the Rockets, perhaps transforming Texas into the Lin Star State. Or maybe the 6-foot-3 Asian American phenomenon will inspire the era of Linergy, in homage to the self-styled Energy Capital of the World.
The Rockets' three-year, $25.1 million deal to pry Lin from the Knicks has been a topic of heated debate. After all, the team offered up this contract just seven months after waiving Lin. Is he worth it? The Harvard alum averaged 14.6 points, 6.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds in his injury-shortened 35-game season. During a span of 25 starts, Lin recorded 455 points and 192 assists. The only player to match both those numbers in that period was Chris Paul, with 548 points and 226 assists, according to Elias.
So are Houston fans, who’ve been quieted in recent years, ready to create the same level of Linsanity as those fanatical New Yorkers? As an emerging star in terms of marketability, Lin just might be what the Rockets need to make a splash nationally.
Dave Hardisty, who operates the largest online hub for Rockets fans, ClutchFans, is excited to see more of the international attention that Yao Ming once brought to the franchise.
“The Houston Rockets are a unique organization in that they benefited from an incredibly large fan base in China for nine years, and they lost that connection a year ago when Yao retired,” Hardisty said. “By bringing in a player like Lin, the Rockets matter internationally again. It greatly impacts ticket and merchandise sales along with marketing and sponsorships. So while Jeremy Lin the player is not likely to be worth his new contract, Jeremy Lin the brand is worth that and more to the Rockets.”
Indeed, Lin ranked No. 2 in NBA jersey sales last season, behind only Chicago’s Derrick Rose, while no Rockets player made the top 20.
For what it’s worth, the team doesn’t seem to be outwardly concerned about the marketing power of Lin. Ken Sheirr, senior director of marketing for the Rockets, said the team would only be commenting on basketball-related inquiries about Lin. But many of the team’s fans are brimming with enthusiasm.
Meantime, native Houstonian Philip Daigle has hope that Lin -- and the potential acquisition of superstar center Dwight Howard from Orlando -- might provide the Rockets with the kind of relevance the team enjoyed as back-to-back NBA champions in the 1990s.
“Linsanity could bring some hope and life to a once-proud franchise that hopes to return to greatness,” Daigle said. “While I think we may be overpaying, I think if the Dwight deal goes through, and we get them both, it could be quite the exciting season.”
Jahred Williams, whose allegiance to the Rockets dates to the 1980s and the Twin Towers of Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson, has mixed feelings. He’s a bit skeptical of the relatively unproven guard, who’s played only 64 games in his brief NBA career. Williams, however, is looking forward to newfound excitement at the Toyota Center.
“Not only will Lin's addition add some energy, youth and enthusiasm to our roster, but it should also help boost the team's marketing in the community as well, building off the trend that was started with Yao Ming,” Williams said. “From a basketball standpoint, I'm interested to see how he performs over the course of an entire 82-game season and if he can live up to the handful of performances from last season. I think he has a lot to prove.”
Patrick Reyes traces his Rockets fandom back nearly two decades and realizes the potential Lin can bring to the franchise.
“There aren't a ton of players who almost guarantee you national, if not international, publicity,” Reyes said. “Lin’s game is unrefined, so we will see how he plays. Overall, it’s a great business move, and hopefully it turns into a great basketball move. [I’m] praying for Lin to Howard lobs, even if it's just for one season.”
Justin Capetillo, who inherited his passion for the Rockets from his father, is also a supporter of the Lin acquisition from an excitement standpoint.
“I'm excited for Lin to come to Houston, hoping they bring Howard to join him, and make a Houston Rockets game worth watching again,” Capetillo said. “The Rockets have just been mediocre since Yao left, and crowds have been dull. He's worth the risk and brings a buzz to this team that is much needed in this city.”
So it appears fans expect Lin to bring more than just his Ivy League basketball intelligence to Houston. They want him to bring the energy and passion back to Clutch City. So get your vocal cords ready, Houston. It might soon be time to belt out, “Lin at night, shines big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.”
Jayme Lamm is a Houston-based freelance writer and operates theblondeside.com.