“Extremely excited and honored to be a Houston Rocket again!!” Lin said on Twitter shortly after the New York Knicks confirmed late Tuesday they wouldn’t match Houston’s three-year, US$25 million offer for the 23-year-old player.
The Knicks announced their decision less than two hours before a midnight deadline.
The Rockets were one of two teams to cut then-unknown Lin last season.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said that wouldn’t happen again as he welcomed Lin to Houston via Twitter.
“Welcome to Houston @JLin7!” Morey tweeted, adding: “We plan to hang on this time. You will love #RedNation”.
Even the Knicks were preparing to waive Lin when injuries to two players gave him a chance to come off New York’s bench earlier this year.
Lin responded by sparking a seven-game Knicks winning streak, thrilling New York fans with his clutch shooting and passing skills.
Lin, whose parents are from Taiwan and has a grandmother from China, quickly became a global sensation.
He became the first player in NBA history to score at least 20 points and pass for seven assists in his first five starts.
He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice and was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People as even casual basketball fans found themselves charmed by a Cinderella story that included a spell sleeping on Knicks team-mate Landry Fields’ couch.
“HUGE Congrats to @JLin7!,” Fields tweeted. “So excited for you and all the great things to come.. Houston, you got yourself a good one!”
Lin’s fate had been the subject of intense speculation since he became a restricted free agent this month. He inked the offer sheet from Houston, but the Knicks had the option of matching it to keep him.
The Knicks were widely expected to match a reported three-year, $19.5 million offer from the Rockets.
However, Lin eventually signed the higher offer sheet, which includes a $14.9 million scheduled payment for the third year.
That would cost the Knicks millions in luxury-tax penalties levied on excessive salaries.
Knicks star Carmelo Anthony called the offer “ridiculous,” but still said Monday he hoped Lin would return.
However, team-mate J.R. Smith told Sports Illustrated.com that if Lin — who has played only 64 games in his NBA career — came back on those terms it could have led to tension in the Knicks locker room.
Rockets owner Leslie Alexander made it clear he thinks Lin is worth it.
“We are thrilled to have Jeremy back as part of the Rockets family,” Alexander said. “In his limited opportunity last season, Jeremy showed that he has all the skills to be a great player in this league for many years to come.
“In addition to being a great passer, he is also exceptional at driving to the rim and finishing plays. He also showed a poise well beyond his years by making winning plays at the end of numerous games last season. Jeremy is a winner on and off the court and we view him as an important part of our plan to build a championship contender.”
Over the weekend, the Knicks acquired Raymond Felton to join veteran Jason Kidd — recently obtained from Dallas — as two new point guards on the team’s roster.
Even before the move was official, dismayed Knicks fans were voicing their disappointment.
“We’re losing more than one player. He was a symbol of the city,” Jason Gutierrez, a 29-year-old musician, told AFP outside the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
The Knicks’ Facebook page was littered with criticism.
“Bye bye Knicks… am not Knicks fan anymore,” Jen-Jung Fan wrote.
Lin played what proved to be his last game for the Knicks in their win over Detroit on March 24.
He suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee and opted to have surgery, missing the rest of the regular season.
Lin looked close to returning in the playoffs, but didn’t make it back before the Knicks were eliminated by Miami in the first round.
“Much love and thankfulness to the Knicks and New York for your support this past year…easily the best year of my life ?#ForeverGrateful,” Lin wrote on Twitter.