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Rockets have the "inside track" for Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin opted out of his player option. He's another step closer to a possible return.

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Just last week, we took a look at the possibility that Jeremy Lin could return to Houston in light of the Mike D'Antoni hire. If you recall, D'Antoni was the architect of the free-wheeling system in New York that helped catch Linsanity on fire and make Lin a household name.

Well, now things seem to have taken another step further. It was announced yesterday that Lin will opt out of his player option with Charlotte, making him an unrestricted free agent. And while Lin did say that staying with Hornets could still be a possibility, it's also rumored that he'd already turned down an offer from Charlotte to rework his contract and salary to $5.6 million for the upcoming season (up from the $2.2 million he was slated to make on his player option).

NBA analyst Ric Bucher is claiming that the Houston Rockets have the "inside track" for Lin's services and, as expected, cites Lin's close relationship with D'Antoni as the possible deciding factor. It was reported on Bucher Buzz:

"D'Antoni has the inside track on Lin's services because of their experience playing together in New York when they kindled Linsanity for the Knicks."

Bucher also feels that going back to Houston wouldn't be a problem for Lin, despite being dumped by GM Daryl Morey last time and appearing as an awkward fit alongside James Harden while on the court. While both players like to have the ball in-hand, Bucher claims that D'Antoni has the philosophies to make it work, something prior coach Kevin McHale was simply unable to do.

"There's no hard feelings between Lin and Harden. It simply wasn't a good fit with Kevin McHale as coach... D'Antoni can convince Lin that under his system, both of them can get everything that they want."

Houston won't be the only suitor for Lin, but the dominoes seem to all be falling into place for his potential return to H-town. The Rockets need a point guard that can both create and get his own shot, Houston just hired Lin's favorite coach, and now he is officially an unrestricted free agent.

There have also been some recent rumors that Dwight Howard may actually decide to opt-in to his player option for the upcoming season. And while this would be a huge shocker (myself included), apparently Howard's asking price of $30 million per season is scaring off a lot of teams, and the $23 million he is slated to earn next year in Houston if he stays just may represent his best-paying option.

And while I am still skeptical about that until I actually see it happen (Howard and D'Antoni are practically arch-nemeses), if he does, in fact, opt in, that's $23 million less the Rockets have to spend in free agency, and any hopes of snagging prized point guard Mike Conley is likely out of the question. Lin would then become the best alternative.

For now, though, this is all speculation. But with free agency just several weeks away, we won't have long to wait to find out.

You can see the rest of the Bucher Buzz report here.