In an emotional, candid speech delivered to a youth conference in Taiwan, Jeremy Lin opened up about his struggles during the 2012-13 season with the Rockets, admitting that he couldn't eat or sleep at times and that he once cried before a game because he was worried that he would lose his starting job.
Lin, 24, averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists for the Rockets after signing a three-year, $25.1 million following a breakout 2011-12 season with the Knicks. Although Lin wound up starting all 82 games, he saw his playing time cut at various points in the season, and often wasn't on the court to close games. Houston did qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2009, but Lin was largely ineffective in the playoffs due to a chest contusion.
The following is an extended excerpt of Lin's speech, in which he states that the Rockets coaches were "losing faith" in his abilities and admits that he became "obsessed with trying to be Linsanity." Quotes via this video from YouTube user goodtv.
"As the 2012-13 season started, I was supposed to be the cornerstone of the Houston Rockets. I was supposed to be their new leader, the main guy to finally lead the Rockets back to the NBA playoffs. I was expecting to come in and pick up right where I left off [in New York]. I was ready to invigorate the entire city of Houston. All across Houston, you could see my face on the billboards. I thought I looked so cool. I was supposed to save Houston basketball, but most importantly I was ready to be Linsanity. As I've seen many times in my life, what actually happened was nothing like what I had planned.
"First off, we signed James Harden. ... With the addition of James, I went from being the franchise guy to taking a back seat. On top of that, I started the season playing terribly. Less than 10 games into the season, I started getting benched. In many games, our back-up point guards were playing more minutes than I was. At this point in the season, my stats were significantly worse. The coaches were losing faith in me, the basketball fans were making fun of me. Journalists were criticizing me. My Twitter feed was filled with all types of hateful words. I heard, 'overrated, overpaid, a flash in the pan, a bust, a nobody.' As a result I became really, really frustrated.
"On Dec. 15, 2012, I wrote in my diary: 'I'm tired and weary and can't wait for the season to end.' I went on to write, 'I haven't been able to eat or sleep recently. I'm just tossing and turning with anxiety. What if I lose my spot as a starter? What if I have to be the back-up the rest of the season? What happens if my back-ups are actually better than me?'
"I became so obsessed with becoming a great basketball player. I was so obsessed with living up to my contract and I became so obsessed with trying to be Linsanity, being this phenomenon that took the NBA and the world by storm. Linsanity was supposed to be my breakthrough, where I went from being stuck on the bench to experiencing new freedom as an up-and-coming star. Houston was supposed to be a fresh start, a new beginning, a new journey.
"Most of all, I was supposed to be joyful and free but what I experienced was the opposite. I had no joy and I felt no freedom. I felt chained to the world's lofty expectations. I felt like I had to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. That's why I couldn't eat or sleep. That's why I was no fun to be around. I never smiled. In fact, I even cried before a game against the New Orleans Hornets because I was so anxious about losing my starting spot.
"I had to self-reflect. I had to ask: Would I allow myself to listen to what everyone else said about me? Would I allow myself to be consumed by my performance on the court? To be consumed by my job? I based my self-worth on how many points I scored or how many games I started. I based my self-esteem on being the player everybody else expected me to be. My identity should never have been based on basketball. This is when God showed me I needed an identity check."
Rockets GM Daryl Morey recently defended Lin in an online interview, noting that Lin's youth, injury issues and the huge post-New York expectations are reasons to believe that his 2012-13 season wasn't as bad as some thought.