Kings coach Keith Smart found out early about Jeremy Lin's toughness. Smart coached the Rockets point guard as a rookie with the Golden State Warriors during the 2010-11 season.
Smart said that during one practice that season, as Lin drove to the basket, the guard drew contact and was "slammed to the floor," causing his shoulder to pop out.
"We tried to get him off the floor," Smart said. "He sat over there, popped it back in and got right back on the floor."
Last week marked one year since Lin, who was not available to the media before Sunday's game against the Kings, exploded onto the NBA scene as a member of the New York Knicks.
A relative unknown before last February, Lin became the first player to record at least 20 points and seven assists in each of his first five NBA starts. The NBA's first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent, Lin became a worldwide phenomenon, launching the craze known as "Linsanity."
The Rockets, one of several teams that had cut Lin in 2011, signed him this offseason to a three-year deal after the Knicks chose not to match Houston's offer sheet. Lin entered Sunday averaging 12.6 points and 6.1 assists compared with 14.6 and 6.2, respectively, last season while his turnovers were down from 3.6 to 2.98 a game.
Smart said the Rockets, who entered Sunday as the second-highest scoring team in the NBA, are a good fit for Lin.
"Having all those three-point shooters they have (and) having a strong roller to the basket and pick-and-pop guys, for a point guard, if you're willing to not take a shot tonight and want to get 15 assists, that's the kind of team you want to be on," Smart said.
While Lin's attitude has not changed, Smart said, his game has evolved since his rookie year at Golden State.
"He couldn't shoot like he shoots the basketball now," Smart said. "He was still trying to get the ball to the basket, where defenses were waiting on him.
"But that next year or year and a half, his game changed because his jump shot evolved. And once the jump shot evolved, he had a great feel for finding people, making plays to other teammates. And then his game took off."
Chinese New Year The Kings and Rockets wore special red shooting shirts as part of the NBA's Chinese New Year Celebration week (Feb. 7-14). The game was televised and streamed into China.