Playing the Philadelphia 76ers put Steve Clifford in an experimental mood, which meant Jeremy Lin playing in the lineup for the Charlotte Hornets, and while it wasn’t the best of his games, maybe it does show some creative thinking from the head coach.
It’s more likely that it’s all about Cody Zeller joining the list of injured players that moved Lin into the backcourt next to Kemba Walker and moved Nicolas Batum back to the small forward position. Al Jefferson partied in the paint against Jahlil Okafor to lead the Hornets with 26 points, followed by Kemba Walker scoring 20 points. Lin? As we said, he’s had better performances, finishing with 9 points in 29 minutes of basketball as the Hornets won 113-88.
Why didn’t Lin shine against the worst team in the NBA, falling to 0-13? A lot less aggressive with the ball than usual. Not that he looked like he’s lacking confidence. Defensively things are going great for him, including a beautiful block from behind on T.J. McConnell. Offensively, it seemed as if Clifford told him to stay away from the basket as much as possible, not to mention the team not playing through him, which is simply a waste when the team’s best passer and ball handler is on the floor.
Lin finished with the lowest usage ratio in the lineup (14.3%), even less than Marvin Williams. He shot 3-of-8 from the field including (finally!) hitting a 3-pointer, but didn’t get to touch the ball too much and when he did, it was more along the perimeter instead of attacking the weak rim defense the 76ers have. Considering how Lin has been very aggressive and consistent when attacking the basket this season, this does feel like a direct order instead of how he felt like playing in this game.
And so the trend continues of one thing Clifford does right with Lin along with something bad. He’s either afraid of offending Walker and/or Batum by putting the ball in Lin’s hands when he’s sharing the floor with them or actually thinks that using Lin as a guy who waits around the edges for the ball to come for a three is the best use to make of him. Walker got his points this time and Jefferson looked a few years younger, but the quality of opposition has to be accounted for.
Being in the lineup for the first time this season is nice. Lin playing 28 or 29 minutes each night for the last three games is a blessing as well. However, Lin has to be better with what he gets, especially when it comes to his long range shooting, but above all it has to be Clifford who recognizes who his best player is. Against a team like the Sixers it doesn’t matter as much. In other games, we’ve already seen that making that mistake results in losses.