With training camp on the horizon, it is another new start for Jeremy Lin, another new city, another round of Linsanity questions. It is another look at the most misunderstood NBA player who by his own admission has not lived up to his own standards. But what to make of another Jeremy Lin resurrection, he of the multiple lives. There was Oakland and there was New York and there was Houston and there was Los Angeles. Now Charlotte is the light from which Lin will emerge as either redeemed or ordinary.
Jeremy Lin will always be associated with those few perfect weeks in New York in which his play was given a name. Culturally he was a relevant folk hero with all the trappings of a myth and then he was, behind the scenes, mocked with a repetitive eye-roll. The media loved Jeremy Lin until they had something substantive to critique Jeremy Lin over- his contract, his demotion, his struggles. In an ESPN Magazine article this spring Lin was self-aware of the timeline he is battling.
“I’ve always wanted to be great. And for three straight years, I’ve put in a lot of work but I haven’t seen the results on the court. I mean that’s a long time, right? The average NBA career is five years.” (Jeremy Lin, ESPN)
Los Angeles in his rear view mirror, Lin is downsizing to a much smaller market with a fan base that is lukewarm. Of all the places he has played, Charlotte is the least relevant in the NBA. The Hornets are on national television twice this year but that is hardly the point on what happens to Lin this season, whether he does it in front a crowd or if there are rows of empty seats bored by his presence.
Examining it through a micro lens, the Hornets are desperate for offense the way a man in a desert is thirsty for water. The Hornets were last in 3-point shooting, 31.8%, in 2014-15. They were next to last in 2-point shooting, 45%. They were last in steals which meant they couldn’t get out on the break and finish at the rim. The Hornets didn’t get any easy baskets. They were second to last in assists, primarily because they don’t have skilled players who can put the ball in the hole. And they averaged 94 points a game.
Jeremy Lin is an upgrade. He is a career 47% two-point shooter, 34% on threes. He can get to the rim and finish and is a willing passer. He can go on shooting binges. But athletic isn’t the same thing as explosive. He doesn’t have the hops to out jump defenders, isn’t physical enough to take contact and score, nor does he have a change of direction game when he gets into the paint.
There are two common Jeremy Lin criticisms. He doesn’t play on instinct, he plays on intellect. And he is turnover prone. ESPN ranked him the 28th best point guard ahead of only Isaiah Canon and Dante Exum, one a second year player, one a rookie, with his best attribute being his scoring which is what Charlotte is hoping for. Charlotte has a point guard in Kemba Walker; they want and need Lin to space the floor and put the ball in the hole.
One more thing about Jeremy Lin. His best success, in New York and in Houston, was because of a big man in the middle. Tyson Chandler and Dwight Howard allowed Lin to be a pick and roll point guard. Jordan Hill with the Lakers took away one of Lin’s strengths. Charlotte has a capable offensive player in Al Jefferson, a return to what Lin is comfortable doing.
It’s not much of a reach to say Lin will have a better year this year than last year. His Lakers tenure was a disaster, not to be duplicated. Internally and externally he was the local whipping boy and it drained him into exhaustion. A change of scenery is always nice; for Lin this will be his fifth basketball town.
“There are times” Lin told ESPN, “when I just need to go out there and hoop.”
photo via llananba