Jeremy Lin has something to prove. The fourth-year NBA star’s rise to overnight fame in 2012 made him one of the league’s hottest commodities. But now, in his second year with the Houston Rockets—two years removed from the Linsanity days with the New York Knicks—Lin not only faces the task of living up to the hype; he also faces his toughest on-court competition yet.

“The West is going to be beast,” Lin says, pointing out the veteran experience of teams such as San Antonio and The Lakers, and the youth of new powerhouses like Oklahoma City and Memphis. Lin says he knows his Rockets won’t have an easy road ahead of them if they want to make the finals. “You always have teams that are younger or, you know, have been around.”

But this year, along with fellow backcourt star James Harden, Lin and the Rockets have a new weapon. A big man who knows what it’s like to be in the center of the NBA spotlight, and who, after a dramatic series of free agency indecisions—and widespread criticism—also has something to prove: Dwight Howard.

“He’s really motivated,” Lin says. “And he’s working hard. I think it’s going to be awesome. Hopefully it’s a great year, and I think right now it’s just a matter of getting us all on the same page.”

The future may be bright for the roster-loaded Rockets, but for Lin, things didn’t always look so promising. After going undrafted when he graduated Harvard, Lin eventually worked his way onto a team only to get cut weeks later. Though he eventually got signed by the New York Knicks, he barely received any playing time, and found himself watching most games from the bench.

But all that changed in 2012. After a series of injuries left the Knicks’ roster depleted, the little-known guard ended up leading the team on an improbable run, knocking down game winners and becoming a household name in the process.

This fall, Lin’s story—about going from a couch-surfing benchwarmer to becoming a global superstar almost overnight—came to the big screen in the documentary Linsanity.

Lin says that, looking back on the experience and his rise depicted in the film, he now sees it was all part of a bigger plan that has prepared him for the latest stage in his career. “After going through the first year and a half and getting cut and getting sent to the D-League and all of the frustrations, that forced me to learn to trust in God more and more,” he says. “I think that built a foundation.”