HOUSTON (AP) — Jeremy Lin and his new Rockets teammate Chandler Parsons went out to dinner the night before Lin's introductory news conference in Houston.
Parsons quickly realized that "Linsanity" had left New York and landed in Texas.
The two were interrupted on Wednesday night 15 to 20 times, by Parsons' estimate, by fans who recognized Lin and wanted an autograph or a photo. Parsons, who played in all but three games for Houston last season, was virtually ignored.
"I was a little insulted," Parsons said. "But that's exciting. You want someone like that on your team to bring fans, you want sold-out games. You want the attention like that. The more attention he has, the more attention the Houston Rockets have."
And Lin will certainly bring it.
The Rockets introduced Lin on Thursday on the practice court at the Toyota Center — the court where Lin worked in virtual anonymity seven months ago before he was waived — to accommodate a massive media contingent.
Lin, a 23-year-old undrafted point guard out of Harvard, became a Rocket again when the New York Knicks decided not to match Houston's three-year, $25 million offer.
"It's been an unbelievable ride," Lin said. "Just a lot of things I didn't expect to happen, in terms of just the way last season went. I still have to kind of remind myself that this is all actually happening, sometimes. But it's a huge blessing. I can't believe how it all shaped up, and for me to be here right now. I'm definitely excited and thankful."
Lin said he expected to be re-signed by the Knicks after he electrified the Big Apple last season before he was sidelined by a knee injury. Shortly after the Knicks officially declined to match, Lin was quoted on SI.com as saying, "Honestly, I preferred New York."
Lin said the question he answered was set in the context of before the start of the free agency period.
"The question was, 'Going into free agency, which team did you prefer?'" Lin said. "Before July 1, I didn't even know what teams were interested in me. But all I was hearing was, 'You're going back to New York.' At that time, before free agency started, I preferred New York. By the time it came to the offer sheet, I was just excited about both opportunities.
"Houston and New York," he said, "I was definitely excited about the possibility to go to both."
But probably not as excited as the Rockets were to get him back.
Houston has missed the playoffs the last three seasons, and when Linsanity skyrocketed in New York, general manager Daryl Morey was kicking himself for waiving Lin on Christmas Eve. When Lin hit a winning 3-pointer in Toronto on Valentine's Day, team owner Leslie Alexander called Morey to tersely ask him again why Lin was no longer a Rocket.
"People are making a lot of us admit to our mistake," Morey said. "But the only way to get better is to quickly say, 'That was a mistake. How can we do better next time?'"
At the time Lin was released, the Rockets had Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry on the roster — two point guards with NBA experience. And who knew what Linsanity would become?
"We had very fair reasons to waive him," Morey said. "But the reality is, we shouldn't have."
When Linsanity took hold in New York, jerseys with Lin's name became the NBA's top sellers. He made the cover of Sports Illustrated in consecutive weeks and had drinks named for him. He was initially overwhelmed by the media glare, but now he takes it in stride.
"This past year, it took me by surprise and it was just this huge storm," Lin said. "It was kind of baptism by fire. You get thrown into it and you've just got to make adjustments and learn. That's a lot of what I had to do."
While Alexander said the decision to pursue Lin was "all basketball," he acknowledged that he could potentially impact the Rockets' brand in the way that Yao Ming did, expanding its reach in Asia. But that depends on how good Lin becomes and if the team improves along with him.
Lin is American-born, but of Chinese and Taiwanese descent, and the number of Chinese media at the news conference was about equal to the American contingent.
"If you don't win, what difference does it make?" Alexander said. "If you get him, and he's not a very good player, you look like a fool. How does that help you in any way?"
On the court all Houston really needed was a point guard. The Rockets lost the unrestricted free agent Dragic to Phoenix, then dealt Lowry to Toronto for a first-round pick — a selection made more valuable because it has lottery protection.
Lin averaged 14.6 points and 6.2 assists in 35 games (25 starts) for the Knicks last season. His aim is to improve his statistics every year, but he wouldn't venture to guess how good they could get.
"I don't know what my ceiling is. I don't know what my potential is," he said. "We don't know what the ending is going to be. But I'm excited to find out."
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