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Jeremy Lin, now a Rocket, to play against Knicks for first time since leaving

Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin watches late in

Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin watches late in a preseason game against the Dallas Mavericks. (Oct. 15, 2012) Credit: AP

HOUSTON -- Jeremy Lin hasn't let the phenomenon of last season go to his head. That period was when the then unheralded point guard became an international sensation with his play in a Knicks uniform, scoring the most points (136) by a NBA player in his first five starts since the 1976-77 NBA merger.

It was a time when Lin rejuvenated New York basketball and became one of the most talked about athletes in the world.

But Lin is now a Rocket.

Friday the Knicks visit Houston at the Toyota Center, where Lin will play against his former team for the first time since leaving after the Knicks would not match the Rockets' free-agent contract offer.

"God doesn't make mistakes and God has a perfect plan," Lin said Wednesday before the Rockets played the Bulls. "He wants me here and I know that for sure. It's going well. I'm thankful to be here and it's a different challenge for a young team, but I'm excited."

The 24-year-old Lin is still everything a teammate looks for in a player -- unselfish, hard working and driven. He still is involved in the community.

"He's still humble and down to earth," Rockets forward Patrick Patterson said. "He's not that type of cocky player. Still the same guy I'm sure he was at Harvard."

Lin said he still keeps up with some former Knicks teammates.

"It will be fun to go against my former teammates and friends and we've kept in touch and stuff," Lin said. "After free agency, texted Melo [Carmelo Anthony] a bit and talked to [Steve] Novak, talked to Tyson [Chandler] a bit after free agency.

"And a lot of the guys who aren't even with the team any more. And keeping in touch with staff and employees as well."

Lin wasn't making much ado Wednesday about playing against the Knicks, saying, "It's going to be another game for me."

After being claimed off waivers by the Knicks last Dec. 27, Lin came off the bench in February to make a historical run.

In his 25 starts with the Knicks, Lin averaged 18.2 points, 7.6 assists and 2.0 steals. He became the first NBA player to have at least 20 points and seven assists in his first five starts.

Over the summer the Knicks elected not to meet the Rockets' free-agent contract offer.

Lin didn't want to talk about the Knicks not matching the offer. But during free agency, coach Mike Woodson said he didn't see a scenario where Lin wouldn't be back. Then Lin got the three-year, $25.1 million offer that pays him $14.9 in the third year.

Lin and the Rockets aren't enjoying the success the Knicks are experiencing in the early season. Entering Wednesday night, the Rockets were 4-7. The Knicks won eight of their first nine games, including the first six.

Through 11 games, Lin is averaging 10.5 points, 6.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds. Though he's excelling at penetrating and attacking the basket, his field-goal percentage is only 34.2 percent and he's made just 8 of 33 three-pointers.

"We don't do the same thing here that Jeremy did in New York because we don't have the same personnel," said Kelvin Sampson, serving as Rockets acting head coach in Kevin McHale's absence. "Jeremy is playing a lot better than his statistics . . . He's going to have a break-through game and be on his way."

Though not satisfied with the Rockets' record and his play, Lin is pleased to see the Knicks playing well.

"I'm happy for them and I still have a lot of friends on that team and friends in the organization," Lin said. "So they deserve it. They're a great team, they're atop the league. We just got to come ready to play."

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