Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Jeremy Lin's time is now

It's appropriate that in Jeremy Lin's 1st game of the 2014-2015 season, tonight, he'll be starting at point guard versus the Rockets, the team that took him away from the Knicks in 2012, then promptly marginalized him upon trading for James Harden, then demoted him in favor of Patrick Beverley, and then off-loaded him to the Lakers in a salary dump.

With free agency looming again, Lin has a prime opportunity with the Lakers this season to prove he's a full-time NBA starting point guard who was denied a fair chance with the Rockets ... or prove his detractors are right that he's a journeyman combo-guard who was a flash in the pan with the Knicks. He would not have had the same opportunity this season with the Rockets. The Lakers are a motley crew right now and a team in transition. With his move to LA, Lin is roughly back on track with my 2012 hope for 1-2 seasons of seasoning and then taking charge of a rebuilding underdog team.

At age 26 and beginning his 5th season with his 4th team, Lin is a young veteran entering his prime. While the Lakers are Kobe Bryant's team, Bryant is entering his 19th season and returning after a season lost to injury. Bryant says he wants and needs Lin's help to carry the backcourt load in all facets, including running the offense and creative scoring. Most of Lin's new teammates are limited role players who need a playmaker to create scoring opportunities. Lin should have ample opportunity to use his whole game, including his ability to lead an underdog to overachieve.

Rather than under-use this season, as happened with the Rockets, Lin's coaches will be tempted to over-use him. With Nash out for the season and his Hall-of-Fame career likely over, Lin's competition at point guard is journeyman Ronnie Price and rookie combo-guard, 46th pick Jordan Clarkson. Lin will likely play at the 2 in a Mavs Monta Ellis-type combo-guard role as well as the 1 with the need to moderate Bryant's minutes. At shooting guard behind Bryant, Nick Young will be out until at least December while he recovers from thumb surgery and Xavier Henry is technically available but hasn't practiced the entire preseason with a degenerative knee condition. Wayne Ellington, a shooting specialist, is out for tonight's game with a concussion. The 3 is also thin for the Lakers. With Young out and Henry active but hurt, 2010 4th-pick bust Wesley Johnson is the team's only small forward. Promising 19-year-old rookie Julius Randle, a stocky power forward who's compared to Zach Randolph, may be called on to fill in as a back-up small forward. If Bryant plays some small forward, that means more time at the 1 and 2 for Lin.

This Sports Illustrated article provides some insight on Byron Scott's offense and Lin's division of labor with Bryant:
“He's telling me that he’s the elbow [near the free throw line] and below, and I’m the elbow and up,” Lin said of Bryant, referring to positioning on offense. “I’ve got the top of the key and the pick-and-rolls; he’s got the low-post isos and playing from the block.”
... Lin feels the detractors missed the point, as Bryant’s mid-range game and the Lakers’ Princeton offense will naturally combine to produce fewer threes.
Scott's system emphasis on the mid-range game should fit Lin because his game begins in the mid-range and then goes out to 3 or in to the basket from there.

An interesting marketing angle is the combining of Lin's and Bryant's popularity in Asia.

Lin says he'll be blogging more often this season.

Update: Poor opening game for the Lakers and Lin. Randle was lost for the season with a fractured right tibia.

Update: Lakers games will be broadcast on ESPN this season on Friday, October 31 vs the Clippers, Friday, November 14 vs the Spurs, Wednesday, November 19 at the Rockets, Friday, December 12 at the Spurs, Friday, December 19 at the Thunder, Sunday, February 1 at the Knicks, Wednesday, March 4 at the Heat, Monday, March 16 at the Warriors, and Friday, April 3 at the Trailblazers. The Lakers will be broadcast on ABC this season on Sunday, February 8 at the Cavs and Sunday, March 1 vs the Thunder.

Update: Ouch. Lin's been benched and Ronnie Price is now the starting PG.

Update: Kobe Bryant tore his right rotator cuff. Likely done for the season.

Update: Lin's season visit to MSG is a fitting place for a mid-season assessment of Lin's situation.

Update: Detailed assessment of Lin's career from Linsanity to date.

Update: Pablo Torre's ESPN feature on Lin's biggest obstacle in the NBA: not fitting in.

Eric

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