Jeremy Lin isn’t far removed from his “Linsanity” days, when we were ready to brand him as the next greatest success story in the NBA. He had a rather tumultuous time with the Houston Rockets, though a combination of spotty playing time and unquestionably poor decision making caused the lion’s share of it. Lin’s move to the Los Angeles Lakers gives him a new beginning — one that will take us back to Lin’s best days. Matching up Lin and the Lakers is a match made in heaven.
For those that can’t remember, let me give you a bit of a history lesson. Lin was vastly underused as a member of the Golden State Warriors back in 2010-11. He appeared in just 29 games as a 22-year-old and was essentially just a junk time player. Whether it was the Warriors not seeing Lin’s potential or Lin not living up to said potential doesn’t matter — he needed a change of scenery.
He was waived by the Warriors in December of 2011 and after a quick Houston Rockets stint (never played in a game for them), he was signed by the Knicks on December 27, 2011. After an uneventful nine games that saw Lin average 3.6 points and 1.9 assists in 6.0 minutes per game, the next nine games looked like this:
The Knicks went 8-1 in those games and the Linsanity era was officially born. Lin would cool off once Carmelo Anthony returned from injury, as he saw his minutes and opportunities decline. He got injured late in the season and wouldn’t appear for the Knicks again. We’ll always have this:
Lin went on to play for the Houston Rockets, where he had mixed results. I previously wrote about the disrespect he was shown when the Rockets used Lin’s number for Anthony’s jersey, even though Lin was still on the team. If that doesn’t say it all, I don’t know what will. The fact is — Lin was overlooked on more than one occasion, even though he put up more than respectable numbers for Houston. Check out his two seasons there:
Those aren’t All-Star numbers by any means, but they’re more than respectable. He was the full-time starter in 2012-13 and had his starting job given to Patrick Beverley in the 2013-14 season. If it was purely a defensive decision I’d understand, but the metrics show that Lin and Beverley were very comparable. It just wasn’t a good fit in Houston for Jeremy and they didn’t treat him well.
Los Angeles provides a new start. He was underused in Golden State, then the Knicks discovered him. He was underused in Houston, now his basketball career will be reborn in Los Angeles.
Playing next to Kobe Bryant is something that most players would both love and loathe. The media attention that comes with playing for the Lakers and playing with Bryant isn’t easy to handle, but if there’s a player who can do it — it’s Lin. He’s been followed around by the media circus for the better part of the last three years. Lin is often the most popular player on the road, when his fans simply want to get close enough to take a picture of him.
It can’t be understated how popular Lin really is. As I was roaming the sidelines before a regular season game between the Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets, there were throngs of fans with their cameras out, not wanting to miss their chance to just get a picture of Lin. It was unlike anything I had seen — unlike anything that Bryant or LeBron James encountered in Phoenix.
If Steve Nash is anywhere near healthy, he’ll likely be the starting point guard for now. Lin will come off the bench and ideally, they’ll turn him loose like the Knicks did back in 2011-12. When Lin is allowed to do his thing and is encouraged to be creative, he can be a terrific player. When he’s handcuffed and put in the restrictions of an offense centered around a ball stopper, he struggles. (Editor’s note: Kobe can facilitate when needed — he showed us this two years back)
Having Nash as a mentor will pay enormous dividends for Lin. Don’t forget — he’s still just 25 years old (will be 26 by start of season) and doesn’t have a lot of basketball mileage on him. I fully expect Nash to embrace Lin and help him develop into a better point guard.
Will we see Linsanity 2.0 in Los Angeles? I wouldn’t go that far — but we should expect Lin to blossom into a sixth-man extraordinaire who blossoms into a quality full-time starter by the end of the 2014-15 season — just in time for Lin to get a big contract.