Q&A With Jeremy Lin
Rockets point guard talks ownership of mistakes and the importance of time, trial and error
PORTLAND, OR - Life is rarely dull when you're Jeremy Lin - such is both the blessing and curse of a life lived beneath the glare of the international spotlight. This week proved to be no exception for the Rockets point guard who gained unwanted attention for a last-minute airball against Miami Monday night, found himself on the NBA's All-Star ballot for the first time in his career on Tuesday and then was the subject of an excellent Adrian Wojnarowski feature Wednesday morning.
Through it all, however, Lin has handled the unrelenting media crush with his typical humility and quiet resolve; attributes he put on full display once more during this exclusive Q&A with Rockets.com's Jason Friedman on the day the Rockets begin a big three-game, west coast road trip.
JCF: I wanted to start by asking you about what happened after the Miami game on Monday. Kelvin Sampson said you came up to him, personally apologized for missing that shot in the final minute and then told him you’d knock it down the next time. What prompted you to do that?
JL: Anytime I get the ball in my hands with the game on the line it’s my responsibility to do what I’m supposed to and I didn’t. So that was just me taking ownership of messing it up big time. It was simple: I just talked to him and told him that I should have hit that and I will in the future.
JCF: Sampson said he’d never before had a player come up to him after a game and say something like that.
JL: (laughs) I don’t know. I just know from my standpoint I felt like I should have hit the shot, it was disappointing and I wanted to take ownership of that moment.
JCF: NFL cornerbacks talk all the time about how, when they get burned, the best thing they can do is forget about that moment, let it go and just focus on the next play. I assume your approach is no different.
JL: Yeah, my shooting coach has this one phrase that he always repeats to me: He just keeps saying, ‘The next one’s in.’ That’s the mindset I need to have where the next shot I take is going down.
JCF: How are you feeling about your role in the offense right now? This team has gone through a massive change after the trade, putting you guys in a situation where you’re almost going through training camp 2.0 right now. How do you feel like that transition process is going for you personally?
JL: I think it’s just one of those things where we’re still figuring it out – that’s the important thing people need to keep in mind and the perspective we have to have. I’ve never seen a team gel in eight games, you know? For me, for everybody, we’re still trying to figure out exactly what it’s going to look like and what our identity is going to be defensively and offensively. We’ve got to be patient because it’s kind of like we have to try certain things and see if it works and then make the adjustments and that takes time. Sometimes you don’t want it to take as long as it’s going to take, but the reality of the situation is it’s a process.
JCF: Can you conceptualize what the offense is going to look like when it comes together from an ideological standpoint?
JL: Eventually it’s going to look like something where opponents have to guard both sides of the floor. We’re going to move it very fast and the defense is going to have to go from playing perfect coverage on one side of the floor, then flip it to the other and try to play perfect coverage over there which is obviously very hard to do. We’re going to keep swinging it and keep attacking from different angles and both sides – that’s what we want it to look like.
JCF: I thought it was interesting when Miami was in town because they quite famously had an adjustment process of their own to go through two years ago when LeBron and D-Wade had to figure out how best to mesh their styles and skill-sets. You and James Harden are different players than they are obviously, but there is some similarity from the standpoint that each of you is best with the ball in your hands. Now it took LeBron and Wade nearly two years – and an ill-timed injury to Chris Bosh – to fully figure things out, so I find it somewhat amusing that some people expect you and James and the coaching staff to have already perfectly solved this particular riddle after just two weeks.
JL: Absolutely. I think we’re going to have to sacrifice for each other; and not just me and him but everybody. If there’s times where I have to play off the ball or times where he has to play off the ball, then that’s just something we have to embrace, get better at and get used to just because I don’t think either of us has really done that too much up to this point.
JCF: Does this pairing put even more of an onus on you to strengthen and perfect your outside shot? I know it’s something you were working on non-stop already, but when you’ve got a guy like James who is so good on the ball, I suspect it makes it even more important for you to improve that part of your game, knowing full well that those open spot-up opportunities are going to be there for you.
JL: Absolutely because you have to keep the defense honest and because he’s so lethal with the ball, he’s going to get other people open shots for sure.
JCF: So how huge is it then for you as a player to know you have coaches like Kevin McHale and Kelvin Sampson who are constantly telling you that if you have open shots you have to take them, regardless of whether you’ve missed or made ten in a row?
JL: That’s so important because not all coaches are like that. That approach empowers their players and fills them with confidence. It’s great that they believe in that because I think that’s the way it has to be and how you’re supposed to do it as a player: If you know you can hit that shot, you’ve got to keep shooting it even if it’s not going in at that particular moment.
JCF: Last thing I wanted to mention: I thought the Adrian Wojnarowski piece he wrote about your transition to Houston was great so I wanted to ask you how you’re feeling now, on-court and off, having been back with the team for a few months now.
JL: I think it’s good. Off the court has been great. The Rockets, I mean, what haven’t they done? They’ve been so supportive and helpful. And on the court, I’m still going through a transition process and a lot of things are new to me, so it’s just taking a little bit to get comfortable. But I think that’s going to come. I’ve seen some positives and negatives but I knew that was going to happen.
JCF: Is there an off-court story you can share that demonstrates how the Rockets have made the transition easier for you?
JL: I would just say the contact I have with people in the organization: Good game or bad game, I’ll get a text or a call or people going out of their way to tell me I did a good job on this or to take a look at that – people are just always communicating, talking and voicing their opinion in an effort to make sure everything works out for the best. That’s something that not all organizations do. If you’re struggling, sometimes people might not offer you help or want to talk to you. But I’ve definitely been through my share of struggles and they’ve been very encouraging – and not just one person, but everybody so I’ve been really impressed.