NEW YORK -- Jeremy Lin had just made his 82nd NBA start, marking his first full season as a first-stringer, when asked what he had proven between the mind-bending Linsanity of Madison Square Garden last winter and the relative serenity of the Barclays Center on Friday night.
"I think I've proven I'm a young player who has talent and yet has a long way to go," Lin told ESPNNewYork.com as he headed to see family and friends after Houston's 106-96 victory over the Nets. "That's the way I see myself. I've shown I can do some stuff. I've shown flashes of being a great player. But I've also shown the reverse as well, so it just takes some time."
In November, before his first meeting with the Knicks in Houston, Lin had told ESPNNewYork.com he believes he'll be an All-Star "at some point, for sure." He didn't repeat that claim after struggling against the Nets, who fielded not one, but two point guards who outplayed him, in Deron Williams and C.J. Watson.
But after finishing with nine points, six assists, and five turnovers two nights after he went for 29 points, eight assists, and six rebounds against Oklahoma City, Lin wasn't making any dramatic concessions, either.
"It might not be 29 points every night," he said, "but I just need to be more consistent.
"I think I've had to grow in terms of being a different player off the ball obviously, and learning to be effective every single night of an NBA game. Tonight I didn't really play my best game at all, but I learned a lot."
Lin's first trip to Brooklyn didn't match up to his last trip to the Garden, where he beat the Knicks in December with 22 points and nine assists. But he was cheered loudly on introduction and again when he made a few breathless passes that led to uncontested dunks.
Linsanity was born on the Nets' watch last year, when the undrafted, thrice-fired guard from Harvard came off Mike D'Antoni's bench and out of left field to play a big game at Williams' expense. Almost overnight, Lin became one of the world's most popular athletes, a truth that didn't stop the Knicks from refusing to match Houston's $25 million offer to the restricted free agent in July.
The Rockets made a deal for James Harden before the start of the season, and, suddenly, Lin -- who struggled early after offseason knee surgery -- wasn't the primary scoring option in their backcourt anymore. "It's a different system, and I'm in a different role," he said in comparing this season's Rockets to last season's Knicks. "I'm playing alongside a huge, elite playmaker in James Harden and learning to mesh with him. We're getting there, and I'm really happy with where we're at right now."
Houston is sitting in the eighth position in the Western Conference playoff race at 31-26, and Lin is averaging nearly 13 points and more than six assists per game. Asked what his backcourt partner has brought to the Rockets, Harden said, "Talent, which is what we need. He's doing a good job of leading, definitely by example He's making shots, making plays. He's doing everything."
But he's not following his old team. Told the Knicks had lost in Toronto on Friday night for their 15th defeat in 29 games, Lin said, "I literally haven't seen them play one time since I played them and we were scouting them.
"I haven't been able to catch them, but they're talented -- a really talented team. I think they'll figure it out."