Recently, I had the chance to chat 1-on-1 with Jeremy Lin of the Charlotte Hornets about faith, consistency, his current role and the one thing he wished his followers would stop doing.
The Charlotte Hornets signed Jeremy Lin during the summer of 2015 because of the potential he’d shown on the court and the professionalism he’d displayed off of it. What nobody expected is how good of a fit he’d end up being, as he’s played an active role in pushing his teammates to the next level — both in a basketball and in a personal sense.
At 17-18, the Hornets sit just two games back of the Boston Celtics for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, despite suffering numerous injury setbacks. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is out for the regular season after dislocating his shoulder, Al Jefferson is out six weeks with a knee injury and Jeremy Lamb (wrist), Nicolas Batum (toe) and Lin (ankle) are all nursing their own nagging injuries.
Losing five consecutive games (and eight of 10) can have a severe effect on a team’s confidence, but not for Lin. In fact, he’s the happiest he’s been in a long time, and the reason is simple.
A MAN OF FAITH
As a devout Christian, Jeremy is a selfless, humble man who understands the importance of opening his heart to God. It’s because of this that he’s been able to take a career’s worth of highs and lows in stride. When asked about why he’s the happiest he’s been, despite having a role that’s not as high profile as he’s had in the past, Jeremy acknowledged that “a lot has to do with my faith. It allows me to deal with the highs and the lows, in basketball and really in all of my life.”
The Christian Post reported that Jeremy recently wrote an e-mail to a prayer group that he’s a part of, in order to help spread the word of God to his teammates who haven’t gotten the chance to know Him. I asked Jeremy about his role in the prayer group and if it’s the most important work he does. As is usually the case, Jeremy played it off humbly, as if anyone in his position would do the same thing.
Lin seemed a bit stumped when I brought up the fact that guys like Tim Tebow or Kurt Warner are hugely celebrated for their work, yet the NBA crowd is largely ignored, saying “that’s a good question. I don’t know, maybe because it’s just not as common.”
It fits Lin’s character, as he (and his path) haven’t been common either.
A MAN TESTED
Golden State, New York, Houston, Los Angeles and Charlotte — these are the cities that Jeremy has called home over six seasons of his career, and that doesn’t factor in stints with the Reno Bighorns and the Erie BayHawks of the NBA D-League.
There’s an impersonal aspect to the NBA life — as it’s a business first and a game second — especially for a player that hasn’t had a role for more than a season. The closest he came was with the Houston Rockets, where he was a starter in all 82 regular season games in 2012-13, only to see that permanent starting role taken away the next season. As has been the case, Jeremy didn’t let it bother him and continued to perform when his number was called:
When asked about the difficulty that comes with playing different roles in different cities and whether it affected him, Lin quipped “what a lot of people don’t understand (about consistency) is that I’ve had different coaches, different schemes, different goals and different players (to play with).”
While it’s not a common job, there are common issues that professional basketball players must deal with. There’s a chemistry that must be built with coworkers — and bouncing around from organization to organization and role to role isn’t the way to do it. Jeremy likened it to any relationship, where you have to put in the time to learn about each other, and dealing with so many different people has done him a major disservice early in his career.
Playing next to Carmelo Anthony, James Harden and Kobe Bryant can be a dream come true, but for Jeremy it created more difficulty than anything. If there was one thing the Linsanity era taught us, it’s that Lin is at his best when he’s got the ultimate green light to create for his teammates. Having the ball in his hands as a primary playmaker is a luxury he simply wasn’t afforded enough earlier in his career.
I think I grew a lot as a person, I learned a lot about myself. I took steps in terms of slowing down and appreciating life instead of being so fixated on what I wanted to accomplish. It was a tough year and I learned a lot. I can look back and be thankful for all the experiences. — Lin via ChristianityDaily
Add to that the spotlight that shines so bright on one of the league’s most popular players — as an affable Asian-American Christian with a great sense of humor — and one could see how certain stars might become a bit uncomfortable.
I had to grin when I asked Jeremy about this, if he ever had ribbing or jealousy from teammates about the attention he receives on a regular basis. His response was, “no, the guys are pretty cool about it…well, on this team.”
A HEALTHY PERSPECTIVE
The 2015-16 NBA season hasn’t been Lin’s best in terms of raw stats, but that’s to be expected. Playing next to Walker means he’s more likely to play the 2-guard when paired with Kemba, only moving to the lead guard spot when he’s out there on his own.
Something that plagues any popular player that takes the league by storm are unreasonable expectations. One reason Lin chose Charlotte over his other finalists was that he felt coach Steve Clifford best understood his game and laid out reasonable expectations. Playing in a smaller market without having to deal with ghosts of championships past can be a big draw for a player who has dealt with nothing but unfair comparisons.
Lin is a plus-4.9 per-100 possessions, which is his best number since the 2011-12 season with the New York Knicks. He’s also a plus-6.6 on/off, which is the best of his career. His 12.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 26.1 minutes per game aren’t anything to be ashamed of, either.
What’s most important is the fact that Lin is comfortable and is enjoying his time in Charlotte. His even-keeled approach to the game enables him to get through some of the ebbs and flows of a season, such as his recent shooting slump.
The five games before Phoenix, Lin shot just 36.4 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from the 3-point line. He noted the slump had nothing to do with a bum ankle that’s landed him on the notable injuries list as of late, and shrugged off the bad shooting as “a small sample size, that’s it.” His 13 points in the first quarter and 6-of-9 shooting against the Suns would support that claim.
Legendary shooting coach Doc Scheppler chats with Lin on a regular basis, to keep an eye on Jeremy’s form. On the Hornets staff, Lin relies on coaches Steven Silas and Bruce Kreutzer. Scheppler has been a major source of consistency in Jeremy’s life, as we’ve previously covered.
The familiarity and chemistry on the team is growing — as Jeremy notes it should be — as coach Clifford is doing a better job of picking spots where Lin can best succeed. “It’s just about getting the substitutions and matchups down, getting me in the right position to succeed.”
Ensuring Jeremy is on the right path isn’t something limited to the coaching staff, as Lin also hears it (good and bad) from his mother. After receiving a technical foul late in a 109-90 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Lin got a bit of a browbeating from his mother via text.
I asked if he could give me some details and in what I can only assume is a very endearing rendition of his mother’s voice, Lin said “Jeremy! There’s just no need to get a technical for that.” I think we can all envision our mothers doing the same.
The losing can affect anyone’s psyche, and the Hornets are now riding a five-game losing streak after a nine-point loss to the Phoenix Suns, who had been the league’s worst team over the previous 10 games. After the game, Lin was his usual even-keeled self, noting that they simply didn’t come to play.
“This game was lost well beforehand. We just weren’t ready to play. We just have to come out and play harder. I have to take care of the ball better.”
Lin is as happy as he’s been on a court — save for the losing streak — but there is one thing he’d like to change. I asked if there was one thing he’d like to see his fans stop doing, to which he replied “stop coming to my parents house!”