The healthy version of the Charlotte Hornets, with Steve Clifford preferring Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum pairing in the backcourt while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist starts at small forward leaves very little room for Jeremy Lin, which is bad for both him and the team.
Unless Clifford starts getting more creative with his minute allocation or moves into lineups that include all four of them (MKG as a ‘4’ and Batum at the ‘3’, which he played about half the time this season compared to more than 80% of his minutes during his career) or keeps either Batum or Kidd-Gilchrist on the floor at all time, Lin isn’t going to see the kind of minutes he deserves unless someone gets injured.
There have been soft whispers about a possible trade for Jeremy Lin in the next 11 days, but it’s hard to see it happening. While he can be very useful on a number of teams trying to improve before we get to the playoffs, the Hornets need him, even in the new limited role they have for him. Having Troy Daniels or Brian Roberts fill that need just doesn’t cut it, and so even with a contract that’s very easy to move around, the Hornets will hold on to him as insurance, and as someone who does a very good job with the second unit when he isn’t depressed.
And Lin has certainly looked like he isn’t too motivated in most of the last two games, at least until his multiple entrance performance in the final three minutes of the win against the Washington Wizards. The five points he scored kept the Hornets with a safe distance from the Wizards, which allowed Walker to miss a few more shots and not punish his team for it.
Lin should do better, even when he’s benched. He’s a professional, and this is the NBA, where unfortunately for him, he’s seen as one of these players who can be shifted between roles. From starter to the bench. From a key player in closing minutes to someone the coach can change the units around him and the minutes he uses him in and expect him to give the same output all the time. But he’s human, and he reached some high point in this season with the win against the Cavaliers, done without Walker next to him and without anyone giving the Hornets a shot. And that didn’t make the slightest difference regarding his minutes. Well it did, but not in the way that it should have.
Whether it’s Clifford who simply likes the Walker-Batum backcourt combo so much he’s oblivious to all of the problems with it, or perhaps an order from above; Michael Jordan, Rich Cho, it doesn’t matter. The Hornets see this team built on Walker, Batum (who is a free agent at the end of this season, which means a big and little undeserved extension) and Kidd-Gilchrist, who is a much better offensive player with Lin doing the point guarding than anyone else. Lin, who wants to be a player who has an important role on a team, which also means playing more than 20-25 minutes a night when everyone’s healthy, is getting squeezed out of a team he’s great for.