HOUSTON (AP) — Jeremy Lin and the Houston Rockets are making a fresh start together.
After a dizzying 10 months, the 6-foot-3 point guard is ready to lead the rebuilt Rockets into what the franchise is billing as “a new age” in its history.
“I can’t wait,” Lin said, “just because this offseason was a lot of rumors and talking and things that had to do with everything off the court. I’m excited to get back on (the court) and start doing what our job is to do, to play basketball.”
The Rockets made an aggressive push for Lin in free agency, part of general manager Daryl Morey’s massive renovation of the roster. Houston cut Lin last December, the move that set in motion his rise to international stardom. He signed with New York, sparkled in one dazzling month, and then signed a three-year, $25 million offer sheet with the Rockets that the Knicks decided not to match.
Only 24, the former undrafted free agent out of Harvard shies away from the label as the new “face” of the Rockets, even though his visage has popped up on billboards across town.
“That’s kind of something that’s out of my control,” Lin said. “I’m going to play the same, whether there’s a target on my back or not.”
Lin is as eager as anyone to find out how he can handle a full 82-game schedule. He averaged 18.2 points and 7.6 assists in 25 starts in New York, dishing at least 10 assists in seven games. He was the first player in NBA history to record at least 20 points and seven assists in his first five starts, but his numbers dipped later in the season.
Lin said he’s stronger now after losing 10 pounds during his rehab from surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee.
“For me, I see this as just the beginning, in terms of learning,” Lin said. “Every day, I make a lot of mistakes in practice. As I continue to cut down on those and hopefully grow my game, I’ll be able to evolve as a player.”
The Rockets finished 34-32 and missed the playoffs for the third straight year, prompting Morey to make a flurry of moves. Point guard Kyle Lowry, centers Marcus Camby and Samuel Dalembert and forward Chase Budinger were traded, guards Goran Dragic and Courtney Lee signed with other teams in free agency, and the Rockets waived forward Luis Scola via the amnesty clause.
Scola was not only a fan favorite, he was a valuable mentor to Chandler Parsons, a second-round draft pick in 2011. Parsons averaged 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds last season and he’s taken what he learned from Scola and embraced a leadership role in the locker room.
“I know what it takes every day, to come in and be a professional,” Parsons said. “I have a good sense of what they want and I think I can be a good voice for all the young guys and new guys who haven’t been here before.”
Shooting guard Kevin Martin is also back after averaging 17.1 points per game in 40 starts last season. The roster upheaval left him as the Rockets’ most experienced player, with eight NBA seasons under his belt, most of them with Sacramento.
“I’m a guy that likes to work hard and lead by example,” Martin said. “I’ve got to be a little bit more vocal this year. It kind of reminds me of when I first got in the league and I had Mike Bibby, Chris Webber, Brad Miller trying to guide me through. I have to be a positive influence of how they were with me.”
Houston signed 7-foot Omer Asik to fill the void inside, acquired forward Carlos Delfino, guards Gary Forbes and Shaun Livingston and drafted guard Jeremy Lamb and forwards Terrence Jones and Royce White.
The 6-9 White, the 16th overall pick, caused a stir when he missed the first week of training camp to broker a deal with the team on how to handle his anxiety disorder and fear of flying. Coach Kevin McHale acknowledged concern about how White would balance his condition with the demanding NBA travel schedule, but White was confident that he would work through it.
“We’re here to help him and support him as much as we can,” McHale said, “but he eventually has to be responsible to your team and your teammates. That’s the biggest thing.”
The Rockets will also welcome Donatas Motiejunas, who was drafted in 2011 and played in Poland last year. The 7-foot Motiejunas averaged 16.3 points and 7.8 rebounds in Houston’s summer-league games.
With so much youth, even McHale acknowledges that the Rockets may take some lumps in the rugged West. As training camp began, though, Lin was maintaining optimism.
“We may be young, we may have less experience,” Lin said, “but with that comes our positives, our strengths — quickness, speed, athleticism. We’re going to try to rely on our strengths and ride that through.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.