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How Jeremy Lin Lost His Mojo

Anyone who watched the Rockets’ regular-season finale against the Lakers could see that Jeremy Lin is no longer the point guard who came off the bench to lead the broken Knicks back to respectability.

He’s also no longer the point guard who scored 39 points in a Harden-less battle against the Spurs last October. Sadly, Lin may even end up back on the bench unless he can reverses some disturbing trends that have become apparent lately.

Let’s start with the fact that Lin has been looking brawnier in the upper body than he did even mid-season. Standing next to opposing guards, he’s usually the beefier one. The added muscles on the shoulders, chest and arms are likely to be the cause of one of his emerging problems — sluggishness.

Strength training is imposed by NBA teams eager to protect their investments because muscle is seen as body armor that can enhance durability. Team trainers also believe, spuriously, that adding muscle mass will enhance athletic performance.

The opposite is more commonly true. Misguided muscle-building has the potential to nip the most promising sports careers in the bud. Examples of Asian American careers diminished by weight training include Michelle Wie, Tiger Woods, Anthony Kim and, yes, Jeremy Lin. I suspect all that added mass may have contributed to the persistent foot injuries suffered by former Rockets center Yao Ming.

Using weight training to focus metabolic resources on building muscle mass in the arms, shoulders, back and torso dampens the subtly-balanced, typically leg-powered motion needed to drive, putt or shoot a basketball into a small hoop at a great distance.

A gifted young athlete represents an optimal allocation of physical resources toward a very specific and limited objective. Building up upper-body mass is the surest way to throw that delicate machine off balance. The burden of building superfluous muscles can also rob the body of its capacity to repair daily wear-and-tear, as well as to keep the brain well nourished. Combine that with athletes’ natural tendency to compensate for the loss of touch, timing and balance with more brute effort and you end up with crippling injuries.

As soon as Michelle Wie turned pro at the age of 16 and signed huge contracts with sponsors like Nike and Samsung, she made the mistake of hiring an expensive coach. The first thing high-priced coaches do is bringing in trainers. The results have been dismal, as the world knows by now. The physiological and other changes to her body (and mind) destroyed her only real gift — a perfectly natural and balanced swing.

The same can be said for Anthony Kim who tried to build a more muscular swing and ended up crippling himself due to the inevitable cascade of adjustments. Tiger Woods too was getting too muscular from weightlifting. His extramarital tomcatting was blamed for the collapse that began in late 2009 but the beefing up compounded his inability to maintain his high level of play.

Lin has been packing on muscle since entering the NBA. To the extent that he was focusing on leg strength, the results were generally positive, adding to his explosive quickness and preparing him for his meteoric rise last February. But that same muscle-building push probably also contributed to the torn meniscus that ended his season in late March.

The pounds Lin has been packing onto his shoulders and arms recently are slowing him down and throwing off his shooting touch. It’s time to reduce the upper-body weight training to maintenance levels so he can become rebalanced. If he persists with the muscle-building, he’ll find himself out with another major injury, possibly even during the playoffs. The recent sluggishness may be an early warning sign that he’s heading toward injury.

Another dangerous habit Lin has fallen into is the focus on turnovers. He’s brought his turnovers down from over 4 per game to just over 2 during the final two months of the season. That’s way too few turnovers! The psychology that puts low turnovers above inspired playmaking is a prescription for what we’ve been seeing lately — too much passivity and too little hustle.

When Lin focuses on turnovers, he loses sight of the freewheeling high-intensity play that made him the league’s leading pickpocket early this season and the most exciting point guard of last season. No one is interested in watching a cautious Jeremy Lin who worries about turnovers. It’s time to remember what started Linsanity — his decision to stop worrying about turnovers and start playing his own game. That game isn’t about caution but about lust for the paint, the dish and the swish.

Last but not least is the sense that Lin is deferring too much to James Harden. It’s hard to buck the conventional wisdom that the Rockets have become Harden’s team because he’s played more aggressively than Lin the past season. But a Harden-centered team was neither originally intended nor mandated by the powers that be. It resulted largely because of Lin’s acquiescence to the perception that he needed to be something other than what he is.

That acquiescence hasn’t been good for the team. With all the talent the Rockets have — as well as the league’s highest-scoring offensive system — to end the season as the Western Conference’s 8th seed isn’t a triumph but a travesty. Much of the blame goes to coach Kevin McHale for failing to make better use of Lin’s playmaking skills. Lin himself also deserves much blame for not fighting for his proper role as the team’s court general.

Lin amply demonstrated that generalship not only at Harvard and during Lisanity days but in the Rockets’ preseason games and the handful of regular-season games missed by Harden, most of which the Rockets won. Yet in many of the games in which Harden played, Lin was content to be passive and wait for Harden to make rain. That has put on Harden a burden that has proven too heavy too often. No matter how many baskets Harden can squeeze out under pressure, over the course of a long season the Rockets will never match the potential of a team sparked by a true court general like Jeremy Lin.

If Lin can’t bring himself to buck the expectations that have emerged of a Harden-centric Rockets team, he owes it to himself to get traded to a team that will make full use of his core playmaking ability, even if means playing off the bench. Mark D’Antoni and the Lakers can use Jeremy Lin now more than ever with both Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash questionable for next season, because of their age as well as their injuries.

The first playoff round against the Thunder will be a brief one unless Lin reclaims his true gifts in time to make some thunder and rain for himself and for the rest of the young and hungry Rockets.

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Comments

Ed · Apr 18, 05:58 PM · #

Uh, I don’t know if you saw the same game that I saw. I saw Jeremy Lin get schooled by Steve Blake. Why would the Lakers want him over even Steve Blake? I also saw JLin able to drive to the basket but not convert. His speed was sufficient, but his execution was his problem. He’s had an entire season at point guard. I think that speaks for itself, more than the situation in NY. Harden is no question the center of the team, but i doubt he is a terrible player to play with, ala CAnthony. he coexisted very well w Durant, Westbrook on the Thunder. Because JLin is the only AA player, I understand the attention, but lets not overrate him and allow his game to do the talking.

Intrepid · Apr 18, 06:06 PM · #

Durability is important. Lin gets banged around a lot on the court, but he’s never been injured or missed a game this season. He appeared quicker on the Knicks, but all that was before his knee surgery. Not only that, but his role as PG has been somewhat diminished on the Rockets alongside James Harden. Teams are also figuring out his game. He’s on scouting reports.

Simply put, there’s a bunch of factors that could be contributing to his changed performance. Adding muscle might be part of it, but he also supposedly weight going from 200 to 190 lbs during the offseason.

Sinopuppy · Apr 19, 11:19 AM · #

Everybody got the scouting report on J.Lin. All the NBA know his weakness. They shut Lin down. Lin was crafty to negotiate that $25M deal from Houston. He ain’t gonna last long but he sure got a big payday. Knicks weren’t that stupid.C’Anthony ripping a A’hole thru the leaque without J.Lin in New York. Who the sucka.

Intrepid · Apr 19, 12:04 PM · #

@ Sinopuppy

Melo’s been playing for years and admitted that he wasn’t trying hard for D’antoni. Lin’s only been a starter for just over one season, and it’s way too premature to say he’s not gonna last.

Sinopuppy · Apr 19, 01:46 PM · #

The real kicker is if J.Lin can negotiate for a trade to L.A the NBA has the Satelite Dish TV License to Asia and J.Lin negotiates a cut from the deal. We’re talking billions in CCTV/SKY TV rights to broadcast Laker games to Asia plus merchandise cut of J.Lin products.

Yao Ming was quite savvy. $325M career earnings,endorsements and merchandise franchisee rights. This outta Houston.

Kandy · Apr 25, 02:58 AM · #

I think as Lin gets beefier, he’s better in defense but completely off in offense. I haven’t seen him since last Nov. and Dec. But I do notice on the video or pictures that he sure gained stronger on his upper body. For the sluggishness, maybe some truth init? But according to Morey, he’s the most explosive and athletic by measure on Rockets team right now.

I don’t know if it is the weather or the slow lifestyle that Houston has, Lin’s look goes down when he’s in Rockets. He was looking just fresh, fine, and cute in the preseason. I’m not saying he’s not cute, his got his own kind of personality-wised charm, but I can clearly tell that he has dark circles on his eyes, and looked depressed in lots of his pictures.

Not to mention his newly acquired mouth guard, the way he makes grimace is not aesthetically pleasing to look at. In addition, many fans in China wanted him to remove most of the moles from his face, because they believe it brings him bad luck. I mean if you can’t play like an $8 million player, at least look like one (aka celebrity)

For the gameplay, he’s been instructed by McHale to stand in the three-point line in the area that he misses the most ready to shoot the ball. I know it will be cool if he can be THE point guard, but with his teammates so inexperienced and with limited running, BBIQ, or chemistry, it’s hard for him to recreate that same Linsanity run he had in Knicks last year. Yeah no one is expecting him to do that for every game anyways.

McHale said Jeremy should just be a quality player, which right now he’s not really one cuz he’s way too inconsistent. If McHale really wants Jeremy to be a consistent, quality player maybe he and his coach/management team should reconsider how to employ Jeremy. Many people have also mentioned how ugly his hands gesture launching the ball. Maybe this affects his shooting.

Anyways, I believe Jeremy Lin will pull this off, just like he was able to do it before. He’s gotta let that arrogance sink inside his head right now, he’s too low on confidence and think a little bit too much, and that is detrimental to how he execute his plays. As lots of people might have predicted, the most unfortunate thing has happened, Lin is injured in the OKC Game 2 Playoff. I hope he gets better, and just get this series to be over with. Start resting and practice during off season, and coming back next season looking like an All-Star!!

Thank you for the article, your article has some errors, it should be 38pts in second paragraph, and Mike D’Antoni.

Sinopuppy · Apr 27, 03:02 PM · #

Jeremy Lin no longer does as many lay ups. He has to work on his left side offseason and get back to being explosive and aggressive. Take it to the hoop. He is being outmuscled and boxed out. I disagree with the article. The NBA scouts got the book on him. He has to put on more solid muscle and get back to lay ups – straight up the middle and in your face – getting back inside the box. The NBA players are body checking him and pushing him around. A Steve Nash style is similiar to Jeremy Lin. Not a outside shooting guard style Jeremy’s been doing.

Southpaw · May 1, 03:50 PM · #

Ed: You’re obviously clueless if you have to ask why the Lakers would want Lin over Blake. For starter, Lin was a very effective starting PG for the Rockets for the entire regular season; Blake was a back up that couldn’t even suit up for the whole season. If Blake schooled Lin then Lin must have schooled Blake and the entire Lakers’ backcourt in the ’12 season when he lit them up for 30+ points. Better think first before accusing people of being biased, talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Just add the Blake is > then Lin theory to a long list of ludicrous things that the Lin’s haters have used.

Edge · Aug 6, 05:04 PM · #

I believe in Lin

Uyer · Nov 6, 10:14 PM · #

Aside from the facts that he is of Taiwanese American, Taiwan should be calling him at unfortaiwan.org

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