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Coach says Jeremy Lin benched in fourth because of defense

Nov 23, 2012, 7:59 AM EDT

Jeremy Lin AP

It was a back-and-forth game in the fourth quarter Wednesday night between the Rockets and Bulls, one that wasn’t decided until a late 10-0 Rockets run.

And Jeremy Lin wasn’t on the court for much of it.

After a regular nearly 9 minute stint to open the second half, Lin came out and barely got back in. While the other Rocket starters returned Lin played just 2:17 in the fourth quarter while veteran guard Toney Douglas got most of the run as the Rockets looked to counter Nate Robinson (who was having one of those “good Nate” nights).

So what gives, interim Rockets coach Kelvin Sampson? It’s about defense, he told

“You have to go with your instincts,” Sampson said. “You’re not always right with that stuff. But I felt like Toney gave us our best chance to win. Yeah, a much better matchup with Nate.”

Lin himself was more direct and honest.

“Yeah, I think that’s for reasons of defense,” Lin said. “I’m not really sure. Ask Coach. But I think it’s a defensive thing. I didn’t do a very good job of making Nate Robinson uncomfortable. I’ve got to do a better job.”

This isn’t the first time — a week ago, when Portland came-from-behind to beat the Rockets it was Damian Lillard scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter and Lin getting shuffled in and out because of defense.

You can overlook a guard’s defensive failings if he is giving you a lot on the other end of the floor (see Steve Nash). But Lin isn’t doing that either, he’s struggled to find his shot this season and is hitting just 28.8 percent of his shots in the Rockets last seven games.

Lin is in a better spot in Houston than New York for this — he is still a young point guard trying to learn how to play the position in the NBA. He’s no longer a kid wonder nobody really knew about, teams have scouted him now and the book on defending him is out. Like an MLB pitcher that mows down hitters his first few games up from the minors, soon hitters adjust to him and then the pitcher must adapt to stay ahead of them — that is where Lin is. He has to grow and adapt. That’s coming in fits and starts. We’ll see if he can do it, but at least his struggles are not splashed every day all over the back page of the New York Post. He gets to figure it out in relative quiet.

But he needs to start figuring it out at both ends or those minutes will eventually start to dry up. Especially the key minutes late in games.

  1. abchome - Nov 23, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    The way Lin’s playing now, he probably wouldn’t crack the rotation if not the contract and memory.

  2. pellypell - Nov 23, 2012 at 8:41 AM

    Knicks fans have to be Thankful for the Rocket’s swooping in?

  3. omniusprime - Nov 23, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    What defense? Jeremy plays the most Lin-ept defense in the NBA. Heck even Brandon Roy plays better defense with his trashed knees. Linept needs to be forgotten about, he isn’t worth the ink fir any article. Just another overpaid, overhyped pro sports buffoon making buffoons out of the teams that pay this Linept player to ride the pine.

    • scalfor3 - Nov 23, 2012 at 5:42 PM

      Is he a buffoon for signing that contract? I’m not a huge Lin fan but don’t get why he gets this kind of backlash. Hate ESPN if you need to blame someone for his overexposure.

  4. ronhodgessurvives - Nov 23, 2012 at 9:04 AM

    Just bring up Scott Machado already and cut your losses.

    • nbascreed - Nov 23, 2012 at 10:27 AM

      I concur. In a pure meritocracy, Machado would probably be getting a much stronger look right about now, but we know how owners and GMs hate to be wrong and so Lin will get all the time he needs and I suspect that even though they won Sampson will get some “suggestions” from Daryl Morey (who I thinks brilliance with advanced data is a tad overrated).

  5. borderline1988 - Nov 23, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    Count me as one of those guys who thinks he’s way overrated, and will likely not be more than a bench player for his career (maybe he can one day run an effective second unit).

    But fact is, he was way overlooked coming out of college. He couldn’t stick with a number of teams until he played like an all-star for a month in NY.
    Now fans are turning against him, and so are coaches (again). So he hopefully he can prove the naysayers wrong again and stick in the NBA. He’s a good, down-to-earth kid, so he’s easy to cheer for.

  6. timb12 - Nov 23, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    I respect the Rockets for not keeping him in there because of his big contract. It reminds me last year of McHale keeping Lowry and Martin on the bench. It’s refreshing to see.

  7. hartdaddy - Nov 23, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    Like you said, his offense has been poor as well. Plain in simple, Lin is liability on the court on both ends right now. Total bad deal by Houston.

  8. totallyuselessme - Nov 23, 2012 at 3:06 PM

    Everybody tends to overreact to what happened in the last week when it comes to sports.

    Back when Lin was posting crazy numbers and crushing people and becoming the face of the Knicks for the month or two that he was, people were saying he was gonna be an all-star, blah blah blah… and I was saying, “Man, relax. He’s just getting started. Let’s give it some time before we crown him.”

    Now here I am on the other side. Yeah, he’s slumping a little. But guys, relax. He’s just getting started. Let’s give it some time before we trash him.

    Not that I imagine anyone will listen. He’ll probably go on a tear eventually and everybody’ll say he’s a superstar again. Truth is, he’s not the best player ever and he’s not crap, either. D’Antoni’s offense happened to suit him really well. He’ll need some time to find his place in this one.

  9. chengitis - Jan 25, 2013 at 1:29 AM

    Lin does not need to play aggressive. He has already proven he can play aggressive and bring in points. Lin’s advantage to Houston is LEADERSHIP. Lin’s lack of “literal” aggressive moves has been transitioned into making plays and leading the offense (which is in practice), and he is using that to save his energy when the critical time comes. Thats why Lin is such a smart player. Like the saying goes, “the pen is power”I think Lin is doing a fantastic job. Like every NEW team, its just building.

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