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Wei Song

Houston Rockets (2012–2014)

2012–13 season

Lin and Chandler Parsons on the Houston bench

During the 2012 offseason, the Knicks encouraged Lin to seek other offers, but he and the press expected that the team would re-sign him given its need for a young guard, his good play, and worldwide popularity; ESPN reported that the Knicks would match any other offer "up to $1 billion".[115] The Rockets offered a $28.8 million contract over four years with the fourth year of that deal being at the team's option, which put the true commitment at $19.5 million.[135] Woodson said the Knicks would match Houston's offer and that Lin would be his starting point guard.[135] The Rockets then offered a revised three-year, $25 million deal, which Anthony called "ridiculous".[136][137] The Knicks did not match the deal, and Lin deduced the team's decision when they signed Raymond Felton instead.[115] The first two years of Houston's offer paid $5 million and $5.225 million, respectively, followed by $14.8 million in the third year.[138] The higher salary in the final year, known as a "poison pill", was intended to discourage New York from matching the offer.[139] Their failure to match the offer surprised observers, given the team's history of high payrolls; Lin would have been the fourth-highest-paid Knick.[115]

The Rockets made Lin the center of both their preseason "A New Age" publicity campaign as well as their initial ads on Comcast SportsNet Houston.[140] Coming off his "Linsanity" performance in New York, Houston coach Kevin McHale said the expectations of Lin were undue. McHale said the public believed Lin would "average 28 [points] and 11 [assists]", but he had never played a whole 82-game season before.[141] Shortly before their regular-season opener in October, the Rockets acquired James Harden, who supplanted Lin as the face of the team.[140][142] Harden was a ball-dominant, pick-and-roll player like Lin,[143] and McHale chose to have the offense run through the more-proven Harden.[144][145]

Lin struggled at the beginning of the season and began losing playing time to backup Toney Douglas. With Harden sitting out due to injury on December 10, Lin scored 38 points in a 134–126 overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs. The performance was reminiscent of his play during Linsanity.[146][147] Numbers through the season suggested that Harden and Lin were more productive individually with the other on the bench.[144] "I'll be my harshest critic but I'll go ahead and say it: I'm doing terrible," Lin said before facing the Knicks in his first game back in New York.[144] On December 17, Houston defeated the Knicks 109–96, handing the Knicks their first home loss in 11 games. Lin had 22 points and nine assists. He was cheered in pregame introductions, but was booed after the game began.[148]

Rockets coach Kevin McHale speaks to Lin (No. 7) and his teammates during the 2013 NBA playoffs

Lin did not play in the 2013 All-Star Game, held in Houston, after finishing third behind Bryant and Chris Paul in the voting for guards of the Western Conference.[a] He was selected instead to compete in the Skills Challenge during All-Star Weekend.[150] His scoring, shooting percentage, and 3-point percentage improved after the All-Star break,[142] and in February 2013, The New York Times reported that he was "fitting in well" with the Rockets.[151] Lin finished the season with averages of 13.4 points and 6.1 assists per game.[141] Houston qualified for the playoffs, but lost in the first round in six games to the No. 1 seed Oklahoma City Thunder. Lin suffered a bruised chest in Game 2, which limited him in Game 3 and sidelined him for the two games after.[152] He returned for the final game, coming off the bench for three points in 13 minutes.[142]

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