Jeremy Lin was barely clinging to his place in the NBA when he landed with the New York Knicks, and he now needs an encounter with his former team to turn around his slumping season with the Houston Rockets.
When the Knicks visit Houston on Friday evening (at 8:00 p.m ET on NBA League Pass), Lin doesn't need to get revenge on an organization that let him go, or prove that he is a better point guard than the man who replaced him in New York (Raymond Felton), or even show Carmelo Anthony that his beefy contract with the Rockets was not "ridiculous" after all.
His goals should be more modest. He needs to take steps toward securing his spot as the starting point guard for the Houston Rockets.
Lin's grip on that spot not only seems potentially tenuous; it is, at the moment, largely nominal.
Lin starts games, but his backup (and former teammate with the Knicks) Toney Douglas finishes them—at least lately.
In the Rockets' 93-89 win over the Bulls, Douglas not only ran the point for most of the fourth quarter, but he was a pivotal piece in that hard-fought victory.
The diminutive Nate Robinson (the Bulls backup point guard) had been torching Lin in a streaky run of jumpers and drives, but Douglas snuffed out that flame in the fourth quarter and also ignited the team offensively with a pivotal three-pointer of his own.
This came only one game removed from a Rockets overtime loss to the Blazers in which Lin had watched from the bench while Douglas conducted the offense (poorly) for the entire extra period.
Lin's shooting has been woeful (.333 percent from the floor and .229 percent from behind the arc), but on most nights, Douglas' offensive production has been even more abysmal (.283 field-goal percentage and a paltry .259 percent three-point mark).
Still, interim Rockets coach Kelvin Sampson is speaking loudly with his coaching decisions; he believes Douglas' quickness on and commitment to the defensive end of the floor gives the Rockets the best chance to win in crunch time. It is not clear, then, on what basis Lin is starting games.
But Lin has known much more precarious basketball circumstances, and he has already overcome formidable obstacles.
Before Linsanity erupted in New York, Lin was on a peripatetic journey up and down the D-League and NBA with a decidedly uncertain destination.
So when a prayerful set of players gathered in a chapel service, Lin offered a simple petition: that he would not be cut from the Knicks.
The heavens subsequently resounded with the theme from Sportscenter as Lin went on an unparalleled tear of spectacular performances.
Now that his extended slump with the Rockets is relegating him to the bench for the most meaningful minutes of games, Lin is once again turning to his faith.
After the Rockets' win over the Bulls, in which Lin went 2-9 with just three assists, he tweeted:
"Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you...and you will find rest." Matthew 11:28-29— Jeremy Lin (@JLin7) November 22, 2012
That is not necessarily just a reflection of his own state of mind, especially considering that Lin had already delivered Thanksgiving turkeys to the less fortunate and is keenly aware that there are many people in much more wearying and burdensome circumstances than his multi-million dollar existence.
But Lin admits that "in terms of how I'm playing [I'm] a little disappointed in myself."
Lin needs to find what he has lost: his shooting touch and ability to finish at the rim. If he left that in New York, Friday night would be the perfect time to get it back.
But if his recent struggles are a sign for some of how far Lin has fallen, Lin sees the Knicks impending visit as a reminder of how far he has come.
I find it ironic that Thanksgiving is just around the corner; it's a great reminder to be thankful for everything I have and...just play my heart out and be okay with the results whatever they may be, trusting in God.
Lin has been here before: trusting an unseen providential hand to write the story of his uncertain basketball career. The original script was called Linsanity, and Lin (like many of us) seems anxious to see the sequel.