There is one major question that remains unresolved with the relationship between the NBA and China after the league returned to Chinese state television for the NBA Finals. When will the Houston Rockets return? The chances of that happening have taken a dramatic upturn with the departure of their general manager Daryl Morey. It was Morey who tweeted his support for Hong Kong’s anti-government protesters last October to send the relationship between the NBA and China spinning off its axis. That led to CCTV pulling game broadcasts, sponsors pulling out and streaming giant Tencent following suit by refusing to screen games at the start of the season. Tencent eased up – apart from games involving the Rockets, of course, who also remained absent from NBA news on the site – as eventually did CCTV, albeit a whole year after Morey’s tweet. Jeremy Lin chases NBA second chance but teams should be chasing him Now Morey has left the Rockets, coincidentally just days after the NBA returned to Chinese screens, and it was all his idea. “For me, it was just a great run,” Morey told ESPN in a telephone conversation that also included Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who he had notified of his intention to step down during the NBA Play-offs last month. “Personally, the timing worked for me. My youngest son just graduated from high school, and it was just the right time to see what’s next with family and other potential things in the future. It just felt like the right time.” That’s good as “the best general manager in the league” – which Fertitta called him during the ongoing NBA-China fallout – might have time on his hands for the foreseeable future. Realistically, he might be seen as untouchable for a job in the NBA for years, with the 29 other teams rightfully wary of how his appointment might play in China – the league’s biggest market outside the US. While Morey is probably going to be away from the league after leaving the Rockets, the question is how else can his former team rehabilitate themselves in China. New York, LA or the Bay – where could Jeremy Lin make NBA return? They were long the country’s favourite team thanks to Yao Ming, who spent eight seasons with Houston. That relationship was undone with Morey’s subsequently deleted tweet and their removal from the Chinese internet was wholesale. “Team 404” as they have become jokingly known, in reference to the online error code, cannot afford to be away from the Chinese market forever. The Rockets logo appears on the NBA China store but click through and there are no products. That is a metaphor for their sponsorship situation with Chinese companies. So what is the answer? Two words: Jeremy Lin. The former Rocket wants a return to the NBA and while he says he is not out to settle any scores, it is a much better story if he gets the opportunity to do so. Lin: ‘from most popular person on the planet to ashamed to go out’ Lin proving everyone wrong would be good for an ageing Rockets roster that needs to do something to help China fan favourite James Harden win a ring. While signing Lin, who has a ring that he feels he did not deserve from his brief stint at the Toronto Raptors, would technically bring championship-winning experience, that is not the reason. Cynically, he is the most popular player in China aside from Kobe Bryant. Bringing in Lin would undoubtedly see the team’s popularity skyrocket. It would surely be too big to ignore. He has more than that to offer, of course. Lin brings almost a decade of highs and lows in the NBA and a revived hunger after his season in China with the Beijing Ducks. That also gives him something else that the Rockets could capitalise on: insider knowledge of the CBA. He could be the NBA’s first player-scout. The Rockets have already shown with Yao that they are willing to sign and more importantly play Chinese talent, which is not the case everywhere. Despite everything, ‘Chinese dream’ of next Yao Ming lives on in the West Yes, Yao was a generational talent – and everyone wants the next Yao Ming – but the Chinese players who have followed hardly had the minutes to prove themselves. Lin himself struggled for minutes during his career, the impression being that he was not trusted as his face did not fit the NBA’s stereotype of what a basketball player looks like. “I can name so many outstanding perimeter players, forwards, big men from this league,” Lin told CCTV in August. “They are as good as their American counterparts. I just hope one day the world will truly respect Asian basketball players.” He could help the Rockets out by bringing such players to the team’s attention. They might improve the team’s championship chances, they might not, but they would certainly improve the chances of the Rockets returning to favour in China. Lin already singled out one player. “I like the way Wu Qian plays,” Lin said of the Zhejiang Golden Bulls star. “He’s got great game.” There are plenty more promising young players, such as Jordan brand’s first Chinese signing Guo Ailun at the Liaoning Flying Leopards, or Zhao Rui at the CBA champion Guangdong Southern Tigers. Sun Minghui at Zhejiang Lions has also started the season brightly. Who will be NBA’s next Yao Ming and foreign stars set to light up CBA? The Rockets’ fellow Texans, the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL, are known as “America’s Team”. With Morey gone perhaps the Houston Rockets can become “China’s Team” once again. Never mind “Linsanity”, 2020 could be the year for “Linsight”.