Linsanity Anniversary – Past, Present, and Future

A little over a year ago, this website was started as a dedication to Jeremy Lin and the Linsanity that he brought to the NBA. While the media hype and shock value of Jeremy’s game is a thing of the past (exacerbated by being in New York), the essence of Linsanity perseveres every time Jeremy steps onto the court and plays his style of basketball. Some sports analysts would argue that Linsanity is long gone simply by comparing statistics of then and now, but it was never about the numbers. Many all-stars past and present have put up better statistical streaks than Jeremy did during his breakout period, but what made Linsanity unique was it was a first glimpse at leadership and inspiration in what was supposed to be a hopeless situation.

On the day Jeremy had his breakout game against the Nets on February 4th, 2012, the Knicks had an 8-15 record, losing 11 of their last 13 games. All three of the point guards ahead of Jeremy on the Knicks roster were considered hopeless and even Coach D’antoni would show his frustration by subbing in an inexperienced player in the 1st quarter and letting him take over the team. While game winning shots and fancy passes would grace the highlight reel, it was his intangible ability to lead a makeshift team (while the stars were injured) to wins that would ultimately define Linsanity. Not only did he forge his own future, but redefined it for lesser known names like Landry Fields, Jared Jefferies, and Steve Novak. While Jeremy clearly over-performed as an individual, his presence made the entire team over-perform during that time.

What about now with the Rockets? Before the season began, the Rockets were considered one of the worst teams in the NBA, but somewhat forgiven since they were young and in a rebuilding phase. Even with the acquisition of James Harden, expectations were low since most of the Thunder’s success has been attributed to Durant and Westbrook, and a single young star rarely makes a successful team. Over half the season is over and the Rockets are well into a playoff push despite being the youngest team in the league, cheapest team in the league, and the head coach missing significant amounts of time due to personal issues. Harden has over-performed, Asik has over-performed, Parsons has over-performed, Patterson has over-performed, and even Toney Douglas has over-performed compared to the previous year and overall expectations. As for Jeremy, if you net his steals against his turnovers, he is currently 12th in the league in terms of Assists to Turnovers, which has largely been critiqued as his biggest weakness as a point guard. Jeremy may not be the #1 offensive option anymore, which leads to decreased numbers, but as the starting point guard, he’s currently leading the fastest and one of the most efficient offenses in the league, which has over-performed all expectations. Isn’t this the very essence of Linsanity?

Rockets Early Numbers

15 games so far and a 7-8 record. Not bad for a team that is:

- The lowest paid roster in the entire league by far. At $48M, the Rockets are paid roughly 20% less than the second cheapest roster (the Phoenix Suns) and less than 50% of the most expensive (the LA Lakers).
- The youngest roster in the entire league. The oldest members of the team are Carlos Delfino (30), Toney Douglas (26), and Omer Asik (26).
- The least experienced roster in the entire league. Kobe Bryant has more NBA minutes than the entire Rockets team combined.
- Without their head coach for the past 11 games (RIP Alexandra “Shasha” McHale).

What was expected to be a very rough rebuilding season has turned into a potential playoff run (whether that’s good or not in the long term). Currently ranked 11th and 17th respectively by the Hollinger and Stein Power Rankings on ESPN, the Rockets have shown to be outperforming their record. In a comparison to other 30 teams, the Rockets actually run the fastest and 10th most effective offense in the league.

PACE AST TO REBR EFF FG% TS% OFF EFF DEF EFF
1st 17th 24th 8th 10th 9th 10th 20th

Individually, the Rockets have a wide breadth of skills that may not shine individually, but thus far balance out the team as a whole.

PLAYER GP MPG TS% AST TO USG REBR PER
Greg Smith 10 11.8 0.637 15.7 5.9 15.0 16.9 21.61
James Harden 15 38.8 0.574 17.2 13.1 27.1 6.0 20.90
Patrick Patterson 14 29.7 0.560 6.8 7.3 18.4 9.7 16.72
Chandler Parsons 14 38.1 0.596 18.6 11.4 16.8 10.2 15.98
Marcus Morris 15 21.4 0.552 7.5 6.8 16.8 11.2 15.46
Omer Asik 15 32.7 0.508 8.1 20.6 16.7 20.9 13.50
Jeremy Lin 15 34.4 0.456 31.2 14.2 18.5 7.2 12.64
Cole Aldrich 8 8.6 0.538 7.6 7.6 14.2 13.6 12.43
Daequan Cook 8 13.9 0.490 14.8 5.6 16.9 6.5 12.18
Carlos Delfino 8 23.6 0.467 15.9 10.6 17.6 9.0 10.59
Toney Douglas 14 15.6 0.455 19.0 16.7 20.3 4.3 7.70

Individual accolades for the starters:

Omer Asik – 3rd in the league for rebounds
James Harden – 5th in scoring, 15th in steals, 25th in assists
Jeremy Lin – 7th in steals and 14th in assists
Chandler Parsons – Top 50 in scoring, FG%, rebounds, and assists
Patrick Patterson – 19th in FG%

A very encouraging start for a team that should improve through experience and additions over the season(s).

Early Number Crunch

Jeremy has played 8 games into the season as a Houston Rocket, so we have some real world data to look at to where his game is going this season.

Here is a raw snapshot of his current Player Efficiency Rating (PER) numbers after 8 games:

PLAYER

MPG

TS%

AST

TO

REBR

USG

PER

Jeremy Lin

34.5

0.462

30

12.3

7.2

18.7

14.56

Keep in mind that the PER stat is normalized so that the league average is 15, which unfortunately, means that Jeremy is currently slightly below that (151 overall rank among all qualified players).

Interpreting these stats against all other point guards leads to the following:

  • 38th overall in PER
  • 49th in True Shooting Percentage
  • 26th in Assist Ratio
  • 27th in Turnover Ratio (lower the better)
  • 18th in Rebound Rate
  • 45th in Usage Rate

The positives are the rebound rate, the vast improvement in turnover ratio, and unlisted is the fact that Jeremy is currently tied for 3rd in the league for steals (2.5) per game. Usage rate is primarily due to the strength of James Harden handling the ball periodically and coordinating plays, which can be a good thing for the team, but often leaves Jeremy out of it.

The real problem is Jeremy’s shooting this season, as it’s the lowest of all the Rockets starters and is really starting to affect the outcome of games. At the end of last season, Jeremy’s TS% was around 55.2%, significantly higher than the current 46.2%. Not only is his shooting percentage getting lower, but the number of shot attempts seems to be lowering as well over the past few games. Jeremy started the first 3 games averaging 14 FG attempts, while the later 5 games dropped to 9 FG attempts. Those watching the games may realize that part of this is from the relatively fewer number of foul calls the referees are giving out this year for drives to the basket, which may be discouraging Jeremy from getting to the rim and settling for the outside shots he’s less adept at.

Still a lot of basketball to look forward to and realistically, the Rockets agenda is much more long term with such a young team, but Jeremy needs to keep working at it to solidify his role as the primary ball handler and 2nd/3rd option for scoring.

Full statistics per game in forums

Game On 2012 – 2013

Yesterday was the first games of the 2012 – 2013 NBA season, but tonight will be the first game for the Houston Rockets. They will be playing away against the Detroit Pistons at 7:30 ET and will be televised locally.

Here’s a video to get you pumped up for the season:

*Update*: Rockets win their season opener 105-96 over the Pistons. James Harden clearly stole the show with 37 points, 12 assists, and 4 steals, but Jeremy showed his value by adding 12 points, 8 assists, and 4 steals himself.

Game thread in discussion forums

The Preseason

First game of the preseason began against the Western Conference Champions, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Jeremy played for 20 minutes, attempting the least number of shots among the Rockets starters (1-3), but contributed primarily through 6 assists and 3 steals. Rockets bench would eventually take over and win the game 107-105.

Highlights:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cVAXH_Y87U

Discussion thread on the forums

Everybody Wants to be King of New York

Stanford, UCLA, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and the New York Knicks.

The list of organizations that had Jeremy Lin in their grasp just to let him go again. Each one expressed the deepest regret of using their biased gut, and not taking a closer look and believing in their eyes. The Rockets learned their lesson and made an effort to rectify their mistake, one that seemed futile two weeks ago, but only succeeded when the Knicks made the same mistake as so many have done before them. What makes it so much worse for the Knicks is that they saw Linsanity up close and should have known exactly how much Jeremy changed basketball in Madison Square Garden. The lack of offer from the Knicks came down to three factors, two of which should have heavily favored Jeremy, while the last ultimately trumped both others.

The Money

Ticket prices and sales of Jeremy’s jersey (#2 for 2012) are only a glimpse of what he brought to the team. Linsanity also brought prominence to several of his Knicks teammates, most notably Landry Fields, Jared Jefferies, Steve Novak, and Iman Shumpert. Being a public company, Madison Square Garden stock has benefitted greatly from Jeremy and its increase in market value since February 2011 is about 10 times the annual salary of the entire Knicks roster. The reality is that nobody has even begun to truly capitalize on Jeremy marketing value. Since Linsanity, he’s only signed two endorsement contracts, one for Volvo and a renewal with Nike [edit: also Steiner Sports as a 3rd]. A countless number of firms have unofficially used his name and likeness to sell products, but we have only seen the tip of the iceberg due to his flash celebrity. It’s been analyzed over and over again, but the cost of Jeremy’s contract, which would have been a very distant 4th on the team, would be nothing compared to his revenue generating potential. This factors in if ALL of the luxury tax were to be attributed to him solely and his performance regresses to an uninspiring league average despite increased NBA experience. Aside from Jeremy destroying his own image (i.e. Jason Kidd’s drunk driving), which is unlikely given his flawless background, signing him would have guaranteed a substantial net positive income for the Knicks. That being said, it wasn’t about the money.

The Basketball

A popular argument against Jeremy is that he’s still unproven and his limited experience of 35 games last season is a risk. Being good in a competitive sport is about perspective. If the Knicks had gotten Steve Nash, then one could argue that Nash is still producing great numbers consistently and would be a safer bet at greatness next year. Fact is, the Knicks didn’t get Nash, they got Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton. Remember the Hollinger PER stat discussed in previous entries? Jeremy ended the season at 19.97, Raymond Felton at 13.46, and Jason Kidd at 13.11, while the league average is fixed at 15.0. Disregarding Jeremy’s numbers for a moment, his two replacements are both BELOW AVERAGE. The argument will then shift to Jeremy’s “inflated” number since he only played 35 games. In 35 games though, Jeremy’s added value of 125.8, which only accumulates through games played, is more than the added values of Felton  (70.1) and Kidd (43.4) COMBINED playing 108 games. For reference, Nash’s added value is 271.9 over 62 games, but again, the Knicks didn’t get Nash. In a good scenario, Jeremy improves as he should, since he’s young, has limited experience, and point guards tend to peak much later in their career. In a bad scenario, Jeremy regresses to league average… which is still better than Felton and Kidd. The last argument will be about turnovers… let’s just say that the four players mentioned in this section had turnover ratio rankings of 10, 11, 13, and 20 in the league this past season (#1 ranking = the most frequent turnovers). If reducing turnovers was the Knicks top priority, it hasn’t been solved by switching between any of these guys. Add it all together, it wasn’t about the basketball.

The Ego

So if a player is bringing in more money and wins, the only real factor left is whether they like him or not. Despite being wildly popular amongst fans and publicly socializing with teammates, somebody in the Knicks organization clearly doesn’t like Jeremy. The two main suspects are the owner, James Dolan, and Carmelo Anthony.

Despite being encouraged to explore his free agency options, Dolan has been reported to have felt betrayed by Jeremy working with the Rockets. This could have been easily solved (or at least made clear) if the Knicks had made the first move and made Jeremy’s resigning their first priority. Instead, they signed Jason Kidd, Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, J.R. Smith, and Pablo Prigioni before Jeremy even got an offer from the Rockets. Regardless of Jeremy’s allegiance, any decent agent would have gone ahead and secured the best offers possible for their client, just to give them options. In Jeremy’s case in particular, a man who’s danced with unemployment numerous times over the past two years should try to secure as many offers as possible for good reason.

As for Carmelo Anthony, who openly called Jeremy’s contract “ridiculous”, might as well have joined other haters in shouting “overrated”. Every player wants to both win and have the spotlight, but for an all-star that has the worst playoff record in the past 20 years, the spotlight might be the only thing that’s left and Linsanity was about to steal it away on a long-term basis. Maybe the number of fans who taped over the “1” on Anthony’s #17 jerseys to mimic the #7 of Jeremy’s started to get to him.

Perhaps other egos were at play behind the scenes. Coach Mike Woodson has long been an advocate of veterans over rookies, but had been unflinchingly supportive of Jeremy in the past month. Maybe General Manager Glen Grunwald wasn’t a fan of Jeremy either for one reason or another. Ultimately, when Jeremy has the financials, stats, and fans on his side, there had to have been somebody with influence and authority to have said “I don’t like him”. You can’t be the king of New York when Jeremy Lin is more popular than you.

Discussion on the forums