"We made an error by letting him go," Rockets owner says
"I just think I'm going to have fun playing here," Lin tells CNN
Lin makes his media debut as a Houston Rocket Thursday
Being a role model for younger Asians is important, Lin says
For the God-fearing, Harvard-educated NBA star Jeremy Lin, it’s deja vu all over again except for two things: This time he’s entering Houston’s Toyota Center with an fat paycheck in his pocket and inflated expectations in the stands.
“I still have to kind of remind myself that this is actually happening sometimes,” Lin told reporters in Houston, where he was making his redux debut as a Rocket on Thursday before a phalanx of reporters and cameras after the New York Knicks failed to match Houston’s three-year, $25 million offer for the point guard.
“But it’s a huge blessing from God, and I can’t believe how it all shaped up for me, and for me to be able to be here right now, I’m definitely excited and thankful.”
Over the past seven months, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound, 23-year-old of Taiwanese descent has made quite a leap.
Lin was waived by the Golden State Warriors on December 9 and was picked up by Houston on December 12. He appeared in two pre-season outings with the Rockets before the team let him go on December 24.
The undrafted point guard then burst into the consciousness of the sports world in early February when then-Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni called him off the bench as the team was struggling with an 8-15 start.
As Lin’s heroics led the Knicks on an improbable seven-game winning streak, “Linsanity” entered the national lexicon and Lin’s previous employer was among the millions who were paying attention.
“We made an error by letting him go, and I think we rectified it now,” Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander told reporters Thursday.
Lin said the Rockets’ approach came as a welcome surprise. “I didn’t know that they were that interested, but when I heard I was excited, just because I knew what the franchise was about.”
And this time, he won’t be sleeping on a teammate’s couch, as he did last year when he was just trying to make a roster.
“It’s definitely nice to be able to have more job security,” he said. “It isn’t necessarily the amount of dollars; it’s the fact that I signed a three-year deal so I get to play this game in the NBA for three more years. I don’t think it’s all about money, but I think, at the same time, how much they put shows their investment and their belief in you as a player.”
As for Houston, “I’ve heard the fans here are very loyal and very crazy,” Lin told CNN’s Mark McKay. “I’m going to have fun playing here. However big the spotlight is, as long as me and my teammates are having fun playing basketball, that’s really all that matters.”
Asked if he was concerned he might prove to be a flash in the pan and not a perennial all-star, Lin said, “No one has the answer to that question. The only thing I can tell them is I’m going to work as hard as I can and I’m going to buy into this team and I’m going to try to help the team become as good as we can. It’s not about how many times you can become an all-star, it’s about your own team’s success.”
Lin said retired Rocket Yao Ming, a Chinese basketball star, sent him a text message of congratulations after his return to Houston was announced.
“I’ve always had so much respect for him,” Lin said. “I would watch him when I was a kid, anytime he would come to the Bay area, I would buy tickets and go watch him play.”
But now, the economics major is thinking about his own brand and, ultimately, his legacy. “When I’m done playing basketball, I want people to think of me a certain way, and that is to play basketball the right way, play as a team, play unselfishly, play hard and then, off the court, to really serve and love other people. That’s where I want to go in terms of the brand.”
Being a role model for younger Asians is also important for him, Lin said.
“I have a strong desire in my heart to be able to break certain stereotypes about Asians and Asian-Americans, especially in sports,” he said. “I just think as time goes on, I think we’ll start to see more Asian-Americans in sports. Hopefully, we will be able to continue to earn more and more respect when it comes to sports.”