A year later, Jeremy Lin plays like it’s February 2012
A year ago Monday, Jeremy Lin came off the bench to rally the Knicks and shock the Nets with an elite performance.
A year ago Wednesday, he earned his first start against the Utah Jazz, and played even better. A year ago this Friday, he destroyed the Washington Wizards more or less by himself. Two days after that, Lin scored 38 points to beat the Lakers on national television. Pandemonium. Worldwide fame. Attention of the president. Etc.
You probably know the rest of the downfall, too. The knee injury, the inability to return last season in time to save the Knicks from losing to the Miami Heat. Then the falling out, too, the apparent decision by the Knicks to punish Lin for signing an offer sheet with the Houston Rockets after the Knicks specifically told him to do so.
And the success the Knicks have had, so far, putting the whole Lin thing behind them (however inexplicable it was that they wished to do so in the first place) by signing Raymond Felton as a replacement and getting out to an excellent team start in 2013.
Meanwhile, people who questioned Lin's rise seemed almost gleeful when Lin, having signed with the Rockets, struggled early this season. And he certainly did struggle, shooting just 37.7 percent in November, disappearing for long stretches in an offense that also called for backcourt mate James Harden to handle the ball frequently, minimizing Lin's best skills.
Asking any player to head to a new team, function in a new offense, then at the conclusion of the preseason, get handed a new teammate who completely changes that offense is asking a lot. Asking it of a 24-year-old point guard with 64 games played in his career and recovering from knee surgery is asking even more.
He's done it, though. And if you hadn't been paying attention before, his Linsanity-type performance Tuesday night against the Golden State Warriors might have gotten you to notice. Or not.
Lin scored 28 points, dished out nine assists, and turned the ball over just twice in a 140-109 victory for the Rockets. The Rockets tied an N.B.A. record with 23 three-pointers, and Lin, between the five he made himself and the many others he facilitated, was responsible for most of them.
This isn't new. Since December 1, Lin has been shooting 46 percent from the field, and nearly 33 percent from three-point range, both marks higher than his 2011-12 percentages with the Knicks. Over his past ten games, he's up above 44 percent from three, a remarkable and welcome improvement, and necessary in an offense where he is often deployed off the ball.
For the season, despite a horrific start and Felton's best month ever in November, Lin's Player Efficiency Rating is now 14.7, just below Felton's 15.3.
But Lin is 24, with years to grow, while Felton is 28 and probably finished developing. Lin's P.E.R. this year is higher than Felton's career mark of 14.4, while Lin's career P.E.R. of 16.4 is higher than all but one single season of Felton's career.
The argument about who is better now is academic, since Lin and Felton, who is playing well after returning from a pinky injury, are both giving their teams what they bargained for. But the argument ought to be over anyway. And Lin is only getting better.
It's a mark of Lin's enduring quality, in fact, that a year after Linsanity overtook New York, performances like the one against the Jazz aren't even a big deal. Nothing to go crazy about at all.