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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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Otto Porter Jr. begins 2018-19 season with way too few shot attempts in Wizards' loss

Otto Porter Jr. begins 2018-19 season with way too few shot attempts in Wizards' loss

The initiative to get Otto Porter Jr. more attempts from three this season is not off to a great start.

That right there is called an understatement. Because it would be one thing if Porter only took a couple of them, but he literally took zero against the Heat on Thursday night in the Wizards' 2018-19 regular season opener.

Yes, one of the NBA's best three-point shooters didn't even get off a single attempt from long range. That is simply hard to justify, especially after a preseason in which the team had a stated goal to shoot more threes than ever before.

It wasn't just threes. The often deferential Porter was even more gun shy than normal. He only took seven total shots in the 113-112 loss and topped out at just nine points.

Porter, in fact, had just one field goal attempt until there was 1:19 remaining in the first half, when he got two of them on the same play thanks to a rebound on his own miss.

Porter still affected the game in other ways, per usual. He had 11 rebounds, three steals and three blocks and finished +1 in +/- rating.

But for Porter to reach the next level as a player, he has to add volume to his efficient scoring numbers.

"We will look at the film and figure it out," head coach Scott Brooks said. "It's not like we go into the game wanting to only shoot 26 threes [as a team] and Otto shoot zero."

Brooks continued to say the problem is a combination of several things. More plays could be called for Porter and his teammates could look for him more often.

But ultimately, it's up to Porter to assert himself and take initiative. Granted, that may have been easier said than done against the Heat, who boast one of the best perimeter defenders in basketball in Josh Richardson. They are a scrappy team with athletic and hard-nosed defenders on the wing.

For Porter, though, that shouldn't matter. Ultimately, his share of the offense is up to him. The ball is going to swing around often enough for him to create his own opportunities.

Porter only taking seven shots is a bad sign considering Thursday was a better opportunity to get shots than he may receive in most games. The Wizards added Dwight Howard this summer and last season he averaged 11.2 shots per game, 3.4 more than Marcin Gortat, whom he replaced in the starting lineup.

It won't be easy, but the Wizards need Porter to take matters into his own hands.

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Despite late penalty, Todd Reirden doesn’t want to see Nathan Walker change his game

Despite late penalty, Todd Reirden doesn’t want to see Nathan Walker change his game

The Caps looked like they were in good shape in the third period on Wednesday. With a 3-2 lead in the final frame against a New York Rangers team that had played the night before, Washington looked like they were starting to wear down the blue shirts and tilt the ice in their favor.

But everything changed just before the midway point of the period.

Nathan Walker, in the lineup for the first time since Oct. 4, chased down Neal Pionk behind the Rangers net as Pionk went to collect the puck. Walker put his arms around the Rangers’ defenseman to slow him up and he was called for holding.

“That was the safest thing possible for me to do is to wrap him up and take him in the corner like that,” Walker said to NBC Sports Washington on Friday. “Personally, I didn't think it was a good call on the ref's side, but that's the way it goes.”

Just over a minute later, Chris Kreider deflected a shot that was going wide past Braden Holtby for the power play goal to tie the game at 3.

A third period mistake that tied the game from a player in and out of the lineup could have been a devastating moment for Walker, but head coach Todd Reirden was adamant after the game that he did not want Walker to lose his aggressiveness or change the way he plays as a result of Wednesday’s mistake.

“I insert him to be aggressive and his intensity was something we needed,” Reirden said. “I thought he won a lot of puck battles earlier in the game and at different points. He's pursuing the puck trying to force a turnover and it ends up as a call against. That's I think a tough call in that situation, but we're able to pick him up and if there's a guy on our team that we want to rally around and try to come back for, it's someone like that with a work ethic and just commitment and dedication and how he is as a teammate.”

Luckily for Walker, the Caps were still able to get the win thanks to Matt Niskanen’s overtime goal. Those were nervous moments for him watching as the team tried to overcome his mistake.

“It's definitely nerve-wracking for sure,” Walker said. “You kind of feel like you're the reason why they got back into the game. I personally thought we were all over them in the third period up until they got that goal. I think we still played really well, but obviously the play with the lead is a lot nicer than playing tied up 10 minutes to go in the third. It was nerve-wracking, but it was good that the guys came through and we got the two points at the end of the day so that's the main thing.”

The fact that Walker’s mistake did not end up costing the team will make it easier for Reirden’s message to sink in. It’s his aggressiveness that makes him valuable. One mistake should not make him change that aspect of his game.

Said Reirden, “It's something that if he stops hunting pucks and creating havoc up ice then he's just a very average player that's going to find himself in and out of the league.”

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