With the first win of the season out of the way for the Charlotte Hornets and Jeremy Lin, it’s a good opportunity to stop and think why there seems to be a big difference between opinions regarding Lin and his ability/potential between NBA fans and obviously the guys who are more important and influential when it comes to his career, his head coaches.
Lin isn’t special in the way there are arguments over whether he’s a good player or not, or simply better than player X/Y/Z. The Internet is filled with the Michael Jordan-LeBron James-Kobe Bryant debates that are mostly about a generational gap from what I’ve seen, besides the usual aspect of homerism. It’s the same with every sport (Brady-Manning, Federer-Nadal, Messi-Ronaldo) and that’s even before we dive into the broader world of Entertainment – Music, television, film and video games. Things can get a lot nastier there.
But Lin does stand out for a number of reasons. Maybe if his road to recognition was through a slow, less obvious process, he wouldn’t generate such buzz. He could have gotten to where he is now (basically a sixth man, or a backup point guard who can be a starter as well in the right situation) by going slow. But Lin exploded onto the scene with the Linsanity two week phase, which made everything extreme about referring to him: An overrated player who got lucky for a few games? A good player who like everyone else has hot and cold streaks? What other options are there?
Lin might be a victim of circumstances, which means head coaches who never liked him. While an NBA teams tries to make the general manager – head coach dual existence something of one-minded issue, it’s never 100% compatible. The Houston Rockets liked Jeremy Lin, but Kevin McHale didn’t, and obviously, Lin’s position changed the moment James Harden was signed. The Los Angeles Lakers are a mess, partially because of the clown (aka Byron Scott) on the sidelines, who wished Lin was never landed on him.
Is Lin really someone who is just a couple of bad breaks from not just being a starter in this league, but a borderline All-Star player? It’s hard to say. The point guard position is loaded, and even in the Eastern conference there’s enough talent to make things difficult in order to push your way into the exclusive club. But Lin is an exceptional passer, and a rare player in the way he can make a crowd go crazy, in a good way that is. He has the star quality that is very rare to see, especially in players that aren’t the leading men of their ball clubs.
It wouldn’t be fair to say it’s all on the coaches. Lin, along with the way he’s been used over the last few years, has had his ups and downs in terms of consistency in almost every aspect of his game. But the Lin we’re seeing playing for Charlotte, after being in the spotlight for four years, is a much more complete, well rounded player. Smarter, more mature, and without the difficulties he has been through as a basketball player trying to get what he deserves, he might not have been aware of all that he has needed to improve.
The frustrating thing about his situation is that it’s not all up to him. Lin is the best point guard on the Hornets, but is not untouchable like Kemba Walker is at this point. Why? That’s the nature of the league, or at least on most teams, where the so-called star player can get away with playing poorly, while others can’t. The Hornets brought in Lin with the intention of using him to change the offense among other things. When he’s been given the chance, he’s been able to do it. It would be a mistake doing a half-ass effort at transforming this team and being afraid to give him the keys to the offense just because they’re afraid to hurt Walker’s feelings and ego.