What was supposed to be a partnership with Jeremy Lin as a one-two punch for an electric backcourt is now D’Angelo Russell and point guard to be named later. Jeremy Lin is out for the season with a torn patella tendon. He knew at the moment of impact as he wept and cried, “I’m done. I’m done.” There was hoping for the best, but in the light of day it is another NBA injury that changes the season. Lin wasn’t going to push the Nets to playoff contention but the Nets were building something with their backcourt that was going to be a foundation. Optimistically, there was a method to the madness. The Lin-Russell cornerstone, with chemistry, would show talented free agents the Nets were on the cusp of something. If nothing else, the pairing with Russell was going to be an entertainment show.
For once, Russell had an opening night playing his natural position, shooting guard. His 30 points in 30 minutes on 55% shooting legitimized what just about everyone in the NBA knows about Russell: lethal scorer, so-so point guard. The game’s cruelty broke up the dream of Russell and Lin.
For Lin, this heartbreak is par for the course.
After his amazing Linsanity tour de force, the Knicks let him and his Linsanity megastardom walk. In Houston, Lin and Harden didn’t have any chemistry and he struggled on defense and in his second year with the Rockets he came off the bench. His next stop was L. A. and Byron Scott, a disaster of epic proportions. Scott benched him for Ronnie Price. One embarrassing game, Lin didn’t play at all. Coach’s decision. He signed with Charlotte, came off the bench and had a good year. It was the fourth year in a row he played over 70 games and the Hornets made the playoffs. He was a free agent but couldn’t spin his North Carolina year into more in Charlotte. He signed with Brooklyn but played in 36 games last year as he struggled with hamstring issues.
He had so much to look forward to this season and in one drive to the basket, one finish, it was over. He isn’t the only player to suffer. Gordon Hayward’s injury was nauseating and Lin’s wasn’t a picnic to witness either. It seems that Lin is always battling one thing after another. If it isn’t coaches who don’t believe in him, it is former players throwing shade at his dreads, or Linsanity continuing to be brought up as something he has to justify.
Lin will return next season which is his last under his current contract of $12 million. By then the Nets will have totally become D’Angelo Russell’s team, for better or worse. The Nets and the league will have some idea on what Russell is and how exactly do you build around him.
As of right now, Russell is the light in the dark room which is how he likes it. All eyes on me. He will be given an even greener green light than he had on opening night. Russell is the Nets best offensive player. He can score in a lot of ways. Yes, he is streaky but so what? On a lot of tough nights, Russell will carry the Nets with his offense and he loves the spotlight so the trade from L.A. was a gift for Russell and the Nets.
Just to remind everyone he was the number two lottery pick, Russell’s opening night performance was Russell shutting up all of his critics. He is a finisher. Now putting the pieces around Russell as the Nets truly become his team is the challenge.
Off to the side is Jeremy LIn, as he watches, waits, and thinks about next year.
photo via llananba