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Rockets put faith, and a lot of money, in still-unproven Lin

POSTED: Oct 4, 2012 9:50 AM ET

By Fran Blinebury

BY Fran Blinebury


Jeremy Lin has started only 25 games in the NBA, but the Rockets gave him a $25 million deal.

— It was Einstein who supposedly defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. How then might the big brain have described the phenomenon that began exactly eight months ago Thursday night?


Did it reach its peak the first time Jeremy Lin came off the bench to drop in 25 points and seven assists against Deron Williams and the Nets? Was it the 38-point bomb he exploded over the heads of Kobe Bryant and the Lakers to practically bring down the roof of Madison Square Garden? Was it the love note 3-pointer with less than a second left that won the game in Toronto on Valentine's Day?

Or is true Linsanity the decision by the Rockets to turn over $25 million and the keys to their offense to any player based on a sample so small that it could fit into a toddler's sippy cup?

To the credit of the 24-year-old point guard, he is not the one heralding the trumpets or splashing his photo on the front page of the team website and every print ad and billboard in town in an attempt to sell tickets.

"I don't know if I'm the face of the franchise just yet," Lin said. "I think we're a young team and we're all going to buy in. The thing about us is it's not going to be any one person who's going to carry us where we want to go -- it's going to be everybody. I think it's so early on and I'm just trying to get to know the guys.

"Definitely you want to lead by example and I think more so this year than last year or the year before, kind of coming in as a non-guarantee or partial guarantee guy. Now there's more stability, so I need to be more of a vocal leader and hopefully lead through work ethic and example."

Reports from the early days of training camp have Lin playing with confidence and effectiveness, taking the ball in his hands and backcourt teammates under his wing. That a player with a total of 64 games and 25 starts could be dishing advice only emphasizes the callow roster of the Rockets. Carlos Delfino is the only player as old as 30. There are seven rookies in camp and three players in just their second NBA season.

There is a down-to-earth serenity and resolute air that has kept Lin grounded. The questions, however, remain about whether Lin is a passing fancy. His turnover rate and his defense are reasons to worry.

Still, the Rockets have been mediocrity personified -- they've won just a single playoff series since 1997 -- so perhaps there is little downside with Lin. Since the injury-prompted endings to the star-crossed pairing of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, there hasn't been much to watch in Houston. The front office has been unable to trade for or attract an All-Star caliber free agent to be the foundation of the franchise. Lin at least gives a nondescript bunch a name to put up on the marquee.

That the Rockets jumped at the opportunity to fork over the big bucks that even the Knicks wouldn't match -- for a player Houston had in camp last December and could likely have signed far cheaper back then -- speaks volumes about their plight, not to mention the lucrative Toyota Center lease held by team owner Leslie Alexander.

While Alexander and general manager Daryl Morey have stated adamantly that they do not believe in intentionally tanking a season in order to secure one of the top three picks in the Draft, and have pursued fistfuls of trades that have kept the team treading water, this could finally be the year that a stripped-down roster wearing the lead boots of youth takes the Rockets to the bottom of the standings. No matter who is playing point guard.

"We're going into the season competing for the playoffs," Morey said. "If that happens, it means that one or more of our young players is probably competing like an All-Star. Could that be Jeremy? We hope so. We believe in him. We think he can lead our team."

The kid goes straight ahead, willing to try. The team will sink, or not.

Either way, Linsanity.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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