It appears like the perfect storyline. Jeremy Lin will make his first career start in Lakers’ season opener on Tuesday against his former team, the Houston Rockets.
But Lin mused that “the headline’s Kobe vs. Dwight,” the obvious reference to the contentious relationship Bryant and Howard had as Lakers teammates two years ago. So Lin won’t try to exact revenge against the Rockets?
“No,” Lin said, smiling. “No.
Yet, Lin conceded it’s “a little ironic” he will start against the Rockets after he lost his starting position with them last year. But he noted, “I’m a starter I feel like because I’m healthy.” The Lakers recently ruled Steve Nash out for the 2014-15 season because of recurring back problems. Veteran guard Ronnie Price has a bone bruise in his right knee, leaving coach Byron Scott skeptical he will play against Houston.
But it’s fair to ask. With Lin facing his former team, did he feel like he received a fair shake during his two seasons with Houston after eventually losing his starting position to Patrick Beverley?
“Do I feel like I got a fair shake?” Lin repeated the question before pausing for six seconds. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I have to think about that one.”
Yet, Lin insisted he hardly views the Rockets with animosity.
“I have a great relationship with so many guys over there,” Lin said. “It’s not like I hate whoever with my former teammates or coaches. I still talk to them.”
Lin averaged 12.5 points and 4.1 assists with the Rockets as a reserve in all but 33 of the 71 games he played. Rockets coach Kevin McHale chose Beverley with reports suggesting they liked his defense better and that Lin could jump start the second unit. His time with Houston took another turn when the Rockets promoted his No. 7 on Carmelo Anthony mock-up jerseys during their unsuccessful free agency pitch. The Rockets then traded Lin this offseason to the Lakers along with a first round pick to clear cap space for an unsuccessful pursuit at Chris Bosh.
“Those two seasons to me reminds me of my time in the D-League,” Lin said. “It’s a chance to grow, develop as a player and go through the necessary bumps and bruises. You hopefully go through things and it primes you for something bigger and better in store. That’s what I’m hoping for. It made me learn a lot and grow a lot as a player. I don’t have as much to show for. You couldn’t see everything. Hopefully I get a chance here.”
Lakers coach Byron Scott sounds confident Lin will after averaging 12.4 points on 60 percent shooting and 6.2 assists through five exhibition games. After Lin missed three exhibitions because of a sprained left ankle, Scott believes he has since regained his explosiveness.
“I expect him to play well,” Scott said. “Obviously the ball will be in his hands now. I expect him to run the offense, handle the ball and do the things Jeremy Lin is capable of doing with knocking down shots and getting into the paint and being the catalyst and leader of the team on the offensive end and getting them to where they need to be.”