Yao's right: Jeremy Lin is going to like Houston just fine
Yao Ming, the former N.B.A. star center with the Houston Rockets, said recently that Jeremy Lin's move from the Knicks to the Rockets would be a good move for both the Rockets and Lin.
“I’m so glad the Knicks didn’t match the contract,” Yao told the New York Times. “Houston is a good place for Jeremy to come to. It’s a good fit because both sides can provide the best opportunity for each other.”
But as Houston general manager Daryl Morey pointed out, also in the Times, “I can see that someone looking at our roster from afar might wonder what the heck we’re doing."
So which is it? Has Lin joined a team that will help him excel on and off the court? Or has he become part of a wacky and possibly ill-advised experiment?
The answer is far more the former than the latter.
Despite the fact that Lin will no longer be playing in the New York market, he'll most likely be a big star in Houston, like Yao was. The roster being built around Lin will maximize his chances of taking advantage of the off-court path forged by Yao, who had no shortage of marketing opportunities while playing for the Houston Rockets, either in this country or, more notably, China. (He made more than $50 million in both 2008 and 2009 from marketing opportunities alone.)
Same goes for the basketball: Lin's new team won't be good immediately, but he should be central to whatever success the team has. And the Rockets will likely get better in the not-too-distant future.
Of course, Lin will need to produce, if not at the levels he did last season, at least enough to assure fans that Linsanity wasn't all some big, funny mistake.
At the very least, the stage is set for Lin to excel. The Rockets have dispersed their veterans to the ends of the earth in an effort to clear cap space and rebuild. The ball is going to be in Lin's hands, and he will be asked to carry the lesser lights around him. He'll be in precisely the circumstance that allowed Linsanity to bloom in the first place, when Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire were out and Lin effectively saved the Knicks' regular season.
Of course, that only goes so far. Lin will need scorers to pass to, and the Rockets should be able to install some around him in the relatively near term.
Next summer, the Rockets will have a pair of picks, their own and Toronto's, with which to bring in a pair of high-impact talents to complement Lin. Cap space will also allow them to add to this nucleus in a deliberate way, trading for other players, and possibly making a meaningful free-agent bid (on someone like Orlando's star center Dwight Howard, even, should he get to free agency).
No matter what, barring catastrophe, the Rockets will be building around Lin. He'll be a celebrity abroad no matter what team he's on. And in Houston, he'll be running the show on a team on an upward trajectory.
He'll be in a smaller market, sure. But if he plays anything like he did last season, fame and fortune won't have any trouble finding him there.