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NBA Sunday: Jeremy Lin Finding Himself in Houston?

Jeremy Lin may never be “Linsanity” again, but he’s finding himself in Houston … Why Andrew Bynum will work in Indiana after failing in Philly, Cleveland …

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Jeremy Lin Finding His Groove

Jeremy Lin hasn’t exactly had an easy time since the month where he played such amazing basketball that the NBA world dubbed him “Linsanity.” Since becoming an instant star, Lin has moved across the country to Houston, dealt with a barrage of injuries that prevented him from playing his best and heard his name mentioned in months of trade rumors stemming from his inability to live up to his own hype.

This season Lin finds himself in a position that is really ideal as he looks to establish what his identity is really going to be in the NBA. Instead of trying to play the role of a star, he needs only complement Dwight Howard, James Harden and Chandler Parsons. Most of the time the ball is not in his hands in crunch time and when it is, his primary job is to get it to one of those players.

“You know, I think I’m just trying to embrace whatever my role is with the Rockets,” Lin told Basketball Insiders recently. “We have so many different injuries on any given night and in any given week that my role changes frequently. I’m just trying to stay aggressive and be more consistent for this team.”

This week the Rockets had a big back-to-back in which they faced their two intrastate rivals in the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks. The Texas Two-Step, as that is called, was made all the more challenging because the Rockets were without Harden, who was out with a sprained thumb. Lin was tasked with starting in Harden’s place and came through big time, scoring 18 points in both games and recording eight assists against the Spurs and seven assists and seven rebounds against the Mavericks. Both games went into the win column for Houston.

“That was very important for us,” says Lin. “We wanted to get both of those wins and it was not an easy task. It was definitely a team effort, with everyone playing really hard both nights.”

Harden returned to Houston’s starting lineup to help them blowout the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the big stat was Lin’s first career triple-double: 15 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists.

The fact that Lin can play either guard positions has benefited the Rockets whenever Harden has been out this season. Head coach Kevin McHale’s system is tailor-made to favor players with Lin’s particular skill set.

“I don’t think playing point guard or shooting guard really matters in our system,” Lin explains. “Me and Aaron Brooks and Patrick Beverley, we’re really interchangeable. We like to push the ball, all of us like to play fast, and to be honest it doesn’t really matter who brings the ball up on any given possession because it’s going to find the open man. That’s the beauty of playing alongside players like we have.”

The perfect storm of events that led to Jeremy Lin’s exploding onto the NBA scene with the New York Knicks will likely never happen again, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a very important part of a winning team. If the Rockets are going to live up to their lofty expectations this season they will absolutely need more of the Jeremy Lin who helped them snap a two-game skid and win back-to-back games without Harden this week.

Why Andrew Bynum Works in Indiana

The Indiana Pacers don’t need Andrew Bynum and that might just be the best reason why he will be a valuable addition for the Pacers after failing miserably in Philadelphia and Cleveland.

Without Bynum, the Indiana Pacers looked like they just might be the best team in the NBA. They are certainly the best team in the Eastern Conference, boasting a 23-5 record against the rest of the East. In addition, their 72 percent winning percentage against the much tougher Western Conference is second only to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have won only a hair more at 73 percent.

If Bynum never logs a single minute the Pacers will be just fine.

There are, however, several significant reasons why Bynum is likely to find a role with the Pacers. First and foremost, the culture in Indiana is conducive to helping Bynum shake off his recent failures and find his game once again. There are no egos in the Pacers’ locker room, and there are a number of quality veterans whose willingness to put the team before their own interests is why the team has done so remarkably well. David West, in particular, will likely get in Bynum’s ear immediately and give him the perspective needed to be successful in blue and gold.

Second, the Pacers have an outstanding coaching staff that will help Bynum find ways to contribute without accepting excuses for failures. If he plays well, he will be rewarded with minutes. If he doesn’t play well or there is more drama like what spoiled his time in Cleveland, the tough-love approach employed by Frank Vogel, Nate McMillan and the staff will keep Bynum in check or he will be gone.

Finally, Bynum has to realize that this is his last chance to prove that he really can play NBA basketball and contribute to an elite team once again. In Cleveland he was on a team that was losing more nights than not alongside young and unproven players under a coach who is struggling to prove he can actually run an NBA program that doesn’t involve LeBron James. In Indiana’s he’s playing with a cast of veterans that was one win away from the NBA Finals last season under a coaching staff that has been proven and is among the best in the league. What’s more, he’s under the watchful eye of one of the best players to ever wear an NBA uniform.

“We are obviously happy to have him join our team,” said Pacers President of Basketball Operations and NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird via press release. “He gives us added size, he is a skilled big man and he has championship experience. With the minutes he gets, he should be a valuable addition.”

As he has in the past, Bynum is saying all of the right things.

“It really wasn’t a hard decision, I think it’s the right fit for me and, in all honesty, I think we’ve got the best chance of winning,” said Bynum via press release. “It will be great to back up Roy (Hibbert) and I’ll do whatever I can to help this team.”

Bynum lost $6.3 million when the Chicago Bulls waived him prior to his contract guarantee date after acquiring him from the Cavaliers, and he will make “just” one million for the balance of the season in Indiana. That’s a bargain by NBA standards, whether Bynum actually contributes or not.

If he does contribute, this could be the move that assured the Pacers a trip to the NBA Finals – if it wasn’t assured already.

NBA Chat with Bill Ingram

In case you missed my last NBA chat, find it by linking here! You can also go ahead and submit a question for this week’s chat, which you can find here! I make an effort to answer every non-repeat question, and early questions are virtually guaranteed to be answered, so drop yours in now!

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Bill Ingram is a Senior NBA Analyst for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA since 1998.

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