The Houston Rockets were on a West Coast swing at the time. Their coach, the former Celtics star Kevin McHale, had more than a passing curiosity in Lin, and perhaps even a twinge of regret.
“I was fascinated like everybody else,” McHale said.
Two months earlier, for 12 days in December 2011, a still-obscure Lin had been a member of the Rockets. But he had a minimum contract and thus a maximum chance of not surviving a lockout-shortened training camp.
“Everything he did was full-bore,” McHale said. “I thought he’d be a great energy guy on our team.”
Before this season, Lin returned to the Rockets as a free agent with a better-known name and a three-year, $25.1 million contract that the Knicks declined to match. He also faced impossible expectations among Houston fans and a challenge that seems to confront artists more often than athletes.