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Linsanity in Texas as new era dawns for Rockets

Linsanity in Texas as new era dawns for Rockets

HOUSTON (AP) Jeremy Lin and the Houston Rockets are making a fresh start together.

After a dizzying 10 months, the 6-foot-3 point guard is ready to lead the rebuilt Rockets into what the franchise is billing as ``a new age'' in its history.

``I can't wait,'' Lin said, ``just because this offseason was a lot of rumors and talking and things that had to do with everything off the court. I'm excited to get back on (the court) and start doing what our job is to do, to play basketball.''

The Rockets made an aggressive push for Lin in free agency, part of general manager Daryl Morey's massive renovation of the roster. Houston cut Lin last December, the move that set in motion his rise to international stardom. He signed with New York, sparkled in one dazzling month, and then signed a three-year, $25 million offer sheet with the Rockets that the Knicks decided not to match.

Only 24, the former undrafted free agent out of Harvard shies away from the label as the new ``face'' of the Rockets, even though his visage has popped up on billboards across town.

``That's kind of something that's out of my control,'' Lin said. ``I'm going to play the same, whether there's a target on my back or not.''

Lin is as eager as anyone to find out how he can handle a full 82-game schedule. He averaged 18.2 points and 7.6 assists in 25 starts in New York, dishing at least 10 assists in seven games. He was the first player in NBA history to record at least 20 points and seven assists in his first five starts, but his numbers dipped later in the season.

Lin said he's stronger now after losing 10 pounds during his rehab from surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee.

``For me, I see this as just the beginning, in terms of learning,'' Lin said. ``Every day, I make a lot of mistakes in practice. As I continue to cut down on those and hopefully grow my game, I'll be able to evolve as a player.''

The Rockets finished 34-32 and missed the playoffs for the third straight year, prompting Morey to make a flurry of moves. Point guard Kyle Lowry, centers Marcus Camby and Samuel Dalembert and forward Chase Budinger were traded, guards Goran Dragic and Courtney Lee signed with other teams in free agency, and the Rockets waived forward Luis Scola via the amnesty clause.

Scola was not only a fan favorite, he was a valuable mentor to Chandler Parsons, a second-round draft pick in 2011. Parsons averaged 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds last season and he's taken what he learned from Scola and embraced a leadership role in the locker room.

``I know what it takes every day, to come in and be a professional,'' Parsons said. ``I have a good sense of what they want and I think I can be a good voice for all the young guys and new guys who haven't been here before.''

Shooting guard Kevin Martin is also back after averaging 17.1 points per game in 40 starts last season. The roster upheaval left him as the Rockets' most experienced player, with eight NBA seasons under his belt, most of them with Sacramento.

``I'm a guy that likes to work hard and lead by example,'' Martin said. ``I've got to be a little bit more vocal this year. It kind of reminds me of when I first got in the league and I had Mike Bibby, Chris Webber, Brad Miller trying to guide me through. I have to be a positive influence of how they were with me.''

Houston signed 7-foot Omer Asik to fill the void inside, acquired forward Carlos Delfino, guards Gary Forbes and Shaun Livingston and drafted guard Jeremy Lamb and forwards Terrence Jones and Royce White.

The 6-9 White, the 16th overall pick, caused a stir when he missed the first week of training camp to broker a deal with the team on how to handle his anxiety disorder and fear of flying. Coach Kevin McHale acknowledged concern about how White would balance his condition with the demanding NBA travel schedule, but White was confident that he would work through it.

``We're here to help him and support him as much as we can,'' McHale said, ``but he eventually has to be responsible to your team and your teammates. That's the biggest thing.''

The Rockets will also welcome Donatas Motiejunas, who was drafted in 2011 and played in Poland last year. The 7-foot Motiejunas averaged 16.3 points and 7.8 rebounds in Houston's summer-league games.

With so much youth, even McHale acknowledges that the Rockets may take some lumps in the rugged West. As training camp began, though, Lin was maintaining optimism.

``We may be young, we may have less experience,'' Lin said, ``but with that comes our positives, our strengths - quickness, speed, athleticism. We're going to try to rely on our strengths and ride that through.''

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knockout the punchless Sabres

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3 stars of the game: Caps knockout the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson. Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's goals on Monday. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.