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Jeremy Lin used to think he had to save Rockets’ basketball

Aug 20, 2013, 6:19 PM EDT

Houston Rockets basketball player Lin gestures during a news conference in Taipei Reuters

While he was in the middle of the swirling vortex that was Linsanity in New York, Jeremy Lin talked about trying to keep his head about him and not get sucked into it.

But he did a little — how could you not? — and that impacted how he played in Houston his first year. Lin admitted this at a youth conference in Taiwan, reported on by the Gospel Herald (via the Houston Chronicle).

“I was ready to invigorate the entire city of Houston … I was supposed to save Houston basketball,” he said. What happened next was not exactly what Lin had hoped for – he didn’t play well at the start of the season and took a back seat to a newly-signed teammate, James Harden.

Lin became very frustrated and anxious about losing his starting spot on the Rockets – “I became so obsessed with becoming a great basketball player … trying to be Linsanity, being this phenomenon that took the NBA by storm,” he said. “The coaches were losing faith in me, basketball fans were making fun of me,” said Lin, who was called “overrated” and “overpaid” by the media.

Like a lot of people in the spotlight, Lin had to learn how to tune out the outside noise and listen to himself, listen to those closest to him. For the devoutly Christian Lin, it meant getting back to his religious roots. He says he has now.

Lin has a role to play on the Rockets, but it’s not as the top star — and with Harden it’s not always as the ball handler. Lin has to pick his spots on the court, fit into a new role. That could take some time — this season is largely going to be about finding those roles for all of the Rockets. They need to mesh. They need to figure out who they are in the context of the team.

I expect to see an improved Lin next season — not at a Linsanity level, that was a perfect storm of circumstance, but at a level where he is a key role player on a team where Harden and Dwight Howard are the stars. Lin had weaknesses (left hand, for one) and if he improved them he could be a third or fourth option, and he could have a good pick-and-roll with Howard. He just doesn’t need to do too much.

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