The up & down season Jeremy Lin is having in terms of how he’s treated by the coaching staff and maybe other higher ups of the Charlotte Hornets continues, showing just how much being in the right situation matters to an NBA player, often a lot more than actually being good during your playing time.
For Lin, who gets paid like a player who is on his way out of the league, instead of someone who could have signed with about half the teams in the NBA and probably started for some of them, including teams with more than just making the playoffs on their mind, the Hornets presented a very interesting opportunity to possibly be in the lineup next to another ball dominant player, or lead the second unit, which is what he usually gets to do.
But along with some excellent performances (often without too many minutes compared to less efficient and useful starters) Lin has seen his minutes dwindle on a number of opportunities, actually getting punished for mistakes that other players aren’t held accountable for. Whether it’s Clifford or someone else calling the shots about Lin’s playing time, that’s a different matter. The issue is how things may not be up to him. Now Lin has been in something of a long range shooting funk but there are other ways to make up for that. However, it takes the right opportunities to do that, and Lin hasn’t been given those for the last couple of weeks.
One player that comes to mind is Shaun Livingston. At the moment, and actually since playing for the Brooklyn Nets in 2013-2014, he’s been in the ideal situation as far as he’s concerned. Jason Kidd realized that he’s not a point guard, shooting guard or small forward, but something in between. Positions don’t mean that much anymore. It’s about the role you fill on the floor, and Livingston, for the Nets that year and for the Warriors after that, has been doing exactly what he’s meant to do. It may not bring him too many accolades, points or All-Star selections, but it’s better than trying to become something you’re never going to be.
Now, Lin’s situation is different compared to Livingston. He came into the league as a nobody, while Livingston, entering the NBA in 2004 out of high school as the fourth overall pick, was immediately burdened with high expectations and comparisons to the likes of Magic Johnson. Some may not remember, but for about 15 to 20 years, any point guard or ball handling player that happened to be 6’7 or 6’8 was immediately compared to Magic.
But there’s a point behind the Livingston story and this entire post, as the Hornets get two nights off before hosting the Golden State Warriors, which is obviously special for Lin and not just because the opportunity to shine against the best team in the NBA. Lin has been through different scenarios in the NBA and after two bad ones, he seemed to fall into the right spot. Only a player in the NBA has a lot of other people he depends upon to succeed, especially when you’re recognized as a role player, not the leader of a team. Lin needs Clifford, or maybe those above him on the Hornets hierarchy, to see how much better he makes them. Without that recognition, good games and even making the most of 20-24 minutes a night won’t help him fully be all that he can be in Charlotte.