Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Lin, young Rockets ready for challenge
HOUSTON -- Jeremy Lin became a Broadway sensation, a coveted free agent and a merchandising magnet in Asia, all in less than a year.
In Houston, Lin will return to a role he used to enjoy at Harvard -- team leader.
The rebuilt Rockets met with the media on Monday before heading south to begin training camp, and they'll turn to their charismatic new point guard for leadership and direction.
The 24-year-old Lin is hardly a seasoned veteran with only 25 starts in the NBA. It just seems that way after Lin soared to international stardom during a remarkable run with the New York Knicks last February. A restricted free agent, Lin signed an offer sheet with Houston, but Knicks coach Mike Woodson said New York planned to re-sign him.
The Rockets amended the offer to three years and about $25 million, with about $15 million backloaded to the final year. The Knicks backed off, and Lin returned to the team that cut him last December.
"It kind of reminds me of college," said Lin, who started 87 games in the Ivy League. "Just coming in, trying to lead, trying to work hard, trying to build a culture of playing a blue-collar brand of basketball."
One Rocket who can trump Lin in experience is shooting guard Kevin Martin, who sat out the final 24 games last season. Martin half-expected to be dealt to another team over the summer, as he watched the Rockets make a flurry of moves.
"Every day, I heard `Rockets,' and somebody leaving, somebody coming," Martin said. "I felt like I was just standing in line, waiting to come up to the front and (somebody saying), `It's your turn to go.' But it didn't happen."
He met with general manager Daryl Morey and coach Kevin McHale and said Monday that he's committed to helping the Rockets this season.
"I know people said I was unhappy or I wanted out," Martin said. "I'm happy to be a Rocket, and I just want to be better every year."
Chandler Parsons, a second-round draft pick in 2011 who's quickly formed a close friendship with Lin, will also share the leadership role after starting 57 games as a rookie.
But even McHale concedes the Rockets will have to rely on scrappiness and guile to stay afloat this season, with most of the nucleus of last year's team -- Kyle Lowry, Courtney Lee, Goran Dragic and Luis Scola -- gone to other teams.
"We have a lot of young guys. We have to find a rotation, we've got a lot of stuff to do," McHale said. "Our goal is to try to win as many games as it takes to put ourselves in a position to get into the playoffs. That's going to be a hell of a challenge, but that's what I told our guys. We've got to find a way to get it done."
The team was flying south to the near the Mexican border later Monday and was holding its first week of practices in Hidalgo, home of its developmental league affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. By taking training camp on the road, McHale was hoping to get a jump-start on forging team chemistry.
"It's good for a young team," McHale said. "It's good to get away for this team, starting out. It'll be nice to kind of be in a place where we'll just work."
McHale also is eager to learn the capabilities of each player, most of them virtually untested as the NBA level. Donatas Motiejunas, a 7-foot forward from Lithuania, averaged 16 points and 6.6 rebounds in Europe last year, and first-round picks Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones and Royce White begin their first training camps after playing for Houston's summer-league team.
"We just have so many unknowns, so many guys who haven't played with each other yet," McHale said. "It's hard to project what they're going to do. But I would be shocked if we don't play really hard and get after it."
The Rockets have been trying for years to land a cornerstone superstar, and Morey spent most of his offseason trying to acquire Dwight Howard, who signed with the Lakers. Without a top-tier player, Houston may take its lumps this season.
At least for now, Parsons thinks everyone is prepared for that.
"We know who we are," Parsons said. "We know our talent level, we know the talent level of the NBA, so we know we're going to have to do all the little things most teams don't want to do. We're going to have to go out there and take charges, and outwork everybody.
"We don't care about the expectations," he said. "We're cool with flying under the radar."