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Signing Lin wasn't only about winning; their investment is starting to pay off.
Should this be surprising? By purely on the court measures, putting Jeremy Lin on the cover of GQ is a bit odd considering the short amount of time he played at a high level during his brief career, but this decision wasn't made for on-the-court reasons. In some ways, that's appropriate considering that I don't believe he was signed by the Houston Rockets for mainly on-the-court reasons. No doubt he has upside and an impressive highlight reel, but there are plenty of reasons to doubt that he can produce at the same level he did during the height of Linsanity in February of this year. I've been over those reasons more than a dozen times so there's no need to regurgitate them again. Better yet, Jeremy Lin agrees with some of that doubt.
People are always saying, ‘He’s only started twenty-five games, there’s so many uncertainties.’ And I agree. I totally agree. I don’t know how my next season’s going to turn out. The things that I struggled with before last year, I’m going to struggle with next year—there’s that learning process. Just because you have x amount of good games doesn’t mean that you have drastically improved as a player. It just means that what you could do is finally being shown. But I have to getbetter.
That quote from the upcoming magazine certainly is mostly his own humility, but I think it's also accurate. Fans expecting him to put up 25 points and 8 assists per game over a full season this year are delusional. He's not as good as his numbers indicated during the height of Linsanity, he's not as bad as he looked against the Heat; the answer is always somewhere in between.
To some extent, whether or not he lives up to the hype doesn't matter. A large part of why the Rockets signed Lin was because of the media attention and advertisement dollars that came along with him. The Rockets have had pretty good players in recent history, but only one other player has attracted this type of attention off the court; that of course being Yao Ming. Even during their championship seasons, the Rockets haven't been a sexy story that leads Sports Center every night. Signing Lin won't put them ahead of the Heat, Lakers, or Knicks in attention from the media, but it certainly raises their profile in pop culture and brings money into the organization.
Long term marketing opportunities will only be there if Lin leads the Rockets to success in the playoffs, but in the short term, and his current contract is only for three years, he'll put money into the pocketbooks of the Rockets front office which is a bonus for a team in the midst of a rebuilding process. Normally when teams go through a rebuilding process they take a hit in ticket sales and marketing because, predictably, the interest in the team drops off. Even if Lin fails to make a big impact on the court, he'll at least help stabilize the books while the team reshapes it's roster and that was an important factor in deciding to sign him. In the short term, I think the Rockets are willing to trade magazine covers for wins.