Though Jeremy Lin conceded he has "a lot of holes" in his own game, the Houston Rockets' point guard said he believes the free-agent signing of Dwight Howard makes the team a dangerous threat as an NBA championship contender.
Reminded that Hakeem Olajuwon told Fox 26 in Houston the Howard-Lin tandem on offense could be "very deadly" after the former Rockets great worked out both in Colorado, Lin said, "I think our team can be deadly," in a taped interview to be aired on ESPN Radio's "The Ian O'Connor Show" on Sunday morning.
"I think Dwight Howard himself is already pretty deadly of a player," Lin said. "For us, it's just a matter of getting on the same page and buying into the system, and I think adding [Howard] as a piece to the puzzle, it's incredible. I think we're all extremely excited and we know what we have, and he looks healthy, he looks explosive, and he's looking better and better in terms of recovering from his [back] surgery."
Howard left the Los Angeles Lakers in July to sign a four-year, $88 million deal with the Rockets, which gives the center the ability to opt out of his contract after three seasons. With James Harden an established perimeter star, the Howard acquisition is expected to elevate Houston -- a first-round playoff loser to Oklahoma City last year -- into the upper tier of Western Conference teams.
"We don't have the [postseason] experience," Lin said, "so we're going to have to make up for that somehow, some way. And we don't really want to wait around and wait three years down the line to be able to compete for a championship; we want to do that now. ... If everything jells together in an ideal situation, I think we can be a championship contender for sure. But that's a big 'if,' and we understand that, and our coaching staff understands that.
"And I think our players right now, we're all talking about being committed to winning a championship, and being able to sacrifice. I think sacrifice is going to be a big, big word for our team."
In his workouts with Howard, Lin said he has been surprised by the big man's touch from the foul line. Howard shot 49 percent from the line in his final season in Orlando and in his one and only season with the Lakers, inspiring some opponents to intentionally foul him.
"One thing that people don't really see, [Howard] can really shoot free throws," Lin said. "When we were shooting, he was shooting really, really well. And I think for him it's just a matter of getting more comfortable in a game. It's definitely there. Sometimes you'll see players who might not be able to shoot the free throw that, well, you can understand. ... But he can really shoot, and that's something that really caught me by surprise."
Undrafted out of Harvard and cut by three teams, including Houston, Lin caught the basketball world by surprise during his brief but wild Linsanity run with the New York Knicks in the middle of the 2011-12 season, when he suddenly became one of the more recognizable athletes in the world.
After the Knicks declined to match the three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet Lin received from Houston, he averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists and started all 82 regular-season games before getting hurt against the Thunder. Lin acknowledged that he was burdened by expectations, and that he got down on himself while failing to duplicate Linsanity in Houston. But Olajuwon said Howard's presence would allow Lin to play pressure-free basketball this year.
"I agree with that, more so now than ever," Lin said. "The majority of the pressure is leaning on other guys, and it's going to give me a little bit more space and a little bit more freedom to be able to just be myself, and I think that's something that I'm looking forward to for sure. For me, I have high expectations for myself, and in no way was I satisfied with my year last year. But the fact that other people think it was a disappointing season to me is somewhat of a compliment that they think I might be able to do more.
"One thing I have to remind myself is I just turned 25 years old, and to be honest I really have only been playing consistent basketball in the NBA for a season and a half, if that, and so I'm very young in my career. And because the expectations of Linsanity are so big and the shadow is so large ... sometimes I have to take a step back and remind myself the journey has just begun.
"I don't have as much freedom or the usage rate that I had in New York. I have to learn how to play a little more off the ball, how to cut better, how to shoot better, how to defend better. There are a lot of holes in my game, and I'll be the first one to admit that. ... It's just a matter of trying to become better and repair and improve. Teams know what my strengths and weaknesses are now, and I don't have that element of surprise anymore."