Houston gives Jeremy Lin the ball, and look what happens

Jeremy Lin. (NBA.com)
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It has been a complicated year for Jeremy Lin and the Houston Rockets, though Lin's 38-point haul in Monday night's 134-126 loss to the San Antonio Spurs may clarify things somewhat.

When the Knicks chose not to match Houston's offer to Lin back in July, the Rockets believed they'd start to build their team, and offense, around Lin in 2012-13. But just before the season began, the Oklahoma City Thunder made James Harden available, and the Rockets pounced.

The pairing looked good in the abstract. Harden's ability to score would complement Lin's strengths of getting to the basket and distributing.

But Rockets coach Kevin McHale made an odd decision, putting the ball largely in Harden's hands and effectively turning Lin into the team's shooting guard. His primary responsibilities have been to play off the ball, which eliminates his primary strength of playmaking, while forcing him to be a primary jump shooter, the weakest part of his game.

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His numbers dropped dramatically, even as Raymond Felton thrived alongside Jason Kidd in a team system the Knicks had originally planned for Lin. Were the critics right, when they said that Lin's 2011-12 season was a mirage?

That wariness about Lin seemed to extend to McHale himself. In a decision that would baffle anyone who ever watched the two of them play, McHale began to play Toney Douglas, of all people, ahead of Lin. Douglas joined the Rockets less because they wanted him, and more because his salary allowed them to make a sign-and-trade deal for Marcus Camby.

Douglas wasn't playing well, either, but had regained some of his three-point shooting touch that had disappeared last season. Essentially, the Rockets had reduced Lin's role to one so narrow, even Toney Douglas could fill it. Lin played 18 minutes on Saturday night, in a loss to the Dallas Mavericks; Douglas played 34 minutes.

But something else happened Saturday night; Harden suffered an injury to his ankle, knocking him out of Monday night's game against the San Antonio Spurs.

The Rockets, suddenly, needed offense, and a playmaker.

McHale seemed to get it, even before the game. When asked if Lin would be allowed to control the offense more without Harden, he replied that he planned to do that once Harden returned, too.

What he got last night against the Spurs, an 18-4 team with a top-five defense, was Linsanity Lin. He scored without forcing, tallying 38 points on 11-for-21 shooting. His offensive binge didn't end merely with himself, either, as Lin dished out seven assists. He even took care of the ball, giving up just two turnovers in 42 minutes of play.

It was a reminder that the Lin who saved the Knicks' season last year is the same guy the Rockets got in Houston. Still no fluke.

Elsewhere in New York sports:

METS

The Mets have either raised their still below-market offer to R.A. Dickey, or retroactively lowered their original, even lower offer to make it seem like they have. Either way, it's still less than Dickey rightly is asking for. But the two sides are close enough that theoretically, an agreement should be pretty easy to reach.

YANKEES

Seems like a Yankees-Ichiro Suzuki deal is inevitable.

KNICKS

He won't play Tuesday night against the Nets, but Amar'e Stoudemire looks closer to a return.

NETS

Brook Lopez should be back first, and that return could be Tuesday against the Knicks.

RED BULLS

Rafa Marquez is rumored to be going elsewhere, as has been rumored before.