The Charlotte Hornets keep rolling towards making the playoffs for the second time in three years, and it seems that demoting Jeremy Lin to shooting guard off the bench hasn’t hurt them at all. His bad shooting numbers don’t seem to pack any punch as well.
Is it good for the Hornets that Lin plays well? Of course. But in the role that they’ve now put him in, which is basically a shooting guard regardless who is on the court, for about 20-23 minutes a game, he has less of an influence on what happens than ever before. He’s played 64% of the time this season as the shooting guard. He rarely gets to handle the ball as a playmaker, which might be why he is more and more deferring to shooting, not having more than two assists in any of his last six games.
The comparisons with Walker don’t really matter anymore. This isn’t about who won or who lost, because they’re both on the same side. And the theory of Lin being better and more important for the Hornets than Walker? It remains a theory. He had one game as the starting point guard while Walker sat out and it looked great, but it was just one game. Then came the big blow of being sent to the bench and not just that, but losing a lot of minutes, only twice getting more than 25 since that Cavaliers win. Confidence shaken? Wrong role? It doesn’t matter. Lin seems to have opportunities to put up points, but he can’t get the ball to drop.
It’s funny that Lin is suddenly better known for his defense, on and off the ball, than what he brings offensively. But this is the player he’s turned into over the last month or so. While sometimes people who write about the NBA try to dig to deep and over analyze things because there are three or four games a week, for players like Lin, who the team doesn’t see as a cornerstone of their potential success, there are many twists and turns during a season. But it seems Lin has seen his last twist, and the role he has now is his role until the very end, including the playoffs. And while his defense is great and +/- numbers are usually good, there’s a bitter taste to his performances because of his shooting.
One good thing is that Lin does get to the line, shooting six or more in three of the last five games. For someone who doesn’t see much of the court, he gets to the line often enough, attacking the rim and doing a very good job of drawing fouls. He tends to get hit quite a lot, which might be just a coincidence and a carry-on of playing the way he does. He also fixed his free throw shooting issues from earlier in the season, making 81.3% of them this season and almost 88% of them in the last 13 games.
Point being? Same as yesterday, only this time we’re talking just about Lin and not the Hornets as a whole. Make shots. It’s that simple, yet so complicated. He’s just 40.9% from the field this season. He’s just 34.3% from the field in the last 13 games. Confidence blown? Ankle? Shooting form, which means something he needs to work on in the offseason? Urging Lin to shoot might have been a bad idea, if the result is more and more 1-of-8 and similar numbers on the box score, hurting the impression he leaves when you judge his game through the eye test, getting good grades across the board, except for that one major flaw.