Once again, despite the preseason promises and indications during the first half of the season, Jeremy Lin finds himself in familiar territory, only on the Charlotte Hornets and not the Los Angeles Lakers or Houston Rockets: If Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist don’t pick up any injuries, Lin isn’t going to see a lot of playing time from now until the end of the season.
Finally at .500, the Hornets begin a six-game Eastern conference road trip, which starts by playing the Indiana Pacers before a nine-day rest (All-Star break) and then heads on to Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Cleveland, Indiana again and Atlantas. The Hornets, 0.5 games behind the Pistons for the 8th spot in the East, are 7-17 so far this season when playing away from home.
Steve Clifford has his guys. Batum, right now without any toes hurting him and sidelining him, a small forward turned into a shooting guard that isn’t the good defender he used to be, is an inconsistent shooter and a very creative passer, but not someone who paces a team and can run a team down the floor during “hot” moments.
Walker, the ball hog of this trio and the team’s leading scorers. He’ll have good and bad days, and his usage numbers sometimes skyrocket beyond what’s good for the team, although his VORP numbers suggest he’s having a fantastic season. Walker is a shooting guard in a small point guard’s body who does some stuff very well, but makes the Hornets all about his isolation plays, and making up for his problematic defense.
And then there’s Kidd-Gilchrist, who missed the first half of the season and returned two months before estimates had him coming back, while some thought he won’t play again this season. Kidd-Gilchrist has improved since his rookie year coming out of Kentucky, but he remains a very limited offensive player, who scores almost all of his points within six feet from the basket. He’s an energy bomb who loves to run up and down the floor, but sometimes gets forgotten when Walker and Batum are in charge of doing the playmaking.
And that stands between Lin and playing time, which right now, at best, seems to be 20-25 minutes. Obviously, the Hornets should do what’s good for them and not for Lin’s career, but for too many times this season it seemed like going with Lin as their point guard meant a better Hornets team. Turns out, those making the decisions prefer him strictly as a backup, although a different combination of a PG-SG-SF trio compared to the one they have right now could improve their chances of making the playoffs.
And while Lin has been demoted to a role he thought he’d never fall into this season, it’s unlikely the Hornets are trading him in the next eight days. He’s insurance. Good insurance, and very very cheap. All that’s left for him to do is to make the most of the opportunities he gets. The time for digesting the fact that he isn’t being properly appreciated is over. With two months left in the regular season and 30 games to play, whether it’s 20 minutes or 35 minutes a night, Lin needs to put himself in the best position possible to avoid this situation again in free agency.