Playing in China with the Charlotte Hornets set the stage for Jeremy Lin to have another fantastic night of preseason basketball, which was about impressing the local fans but also showing just how special he can be for his new team.
Lin scored 16 points in 28 minutes off the bench, shooting 6-of-12 from the field and dishing out four assists. He played alongside Kemba Walker to start the game and immediately hit it off with four quick points which started things rolling for him, and it didn’t slow down. In the first half and later on, Lin was exploding with confidence, both in his ability to control the tempo of the game (not facing Chris Paul helped) and also in the shots he took, often with a defender in his face.
Lin did start as more of the off guard in the first few possessions, both next to Walker and Brian Roberts, but the deeper we got into the game, the more Lin took control of the playmaking. He finished with the highest +/- on the team with +23 as the Hornets broke away from the Clippers in the second half, mostly under his watch, to come away with the 106-94 win.
It was interesting to see Lin playing next to Spencer Hawes and do well in the pick & rolls and pick & pops with him. Hawes isn’t the most agile and quick of players, but used in the right way he could be instrumental next to Lin, who showed his passing skills alongside his shooting with a few difficult passes through hands (risky, but that’s what’s fun about Lin a lot of the time) and defenders to set up some easy points.
He did the same with Cody Zeller, although less on the p & r and more by changing tempo as he attacked the basket while Zeller, a much more industrious player than Hawes who can play well in the open court and through fast-tempo stretches, took advantage of the defense that lost its shape while Lin drove towards the basket. Zeller scored 16 points, grabbed 10 rebounds. Hawes also had a double double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Does this mean Lin is going to be in the second unit early on before joining the closing lineup in close game situations? It won’t be surprising. Steve Clifford started with Jeremy Lamb in the backcourt next to Walker. Lamb did score 12 points but the team didn’t look too fluid during his minutes and overall while Lin was off the court. Maybe it was some energy thing because of how much the fans wants to see Lin, but it’s not surprising to see a team playing it’s best basketball with Lin on the court, even if hasn’t had a lot of time getting accustomed to all the new faces and other things.
Obviously, one can’t get too excited about a preseason performance, and as we’ve seen from Lin before, he’s going to have his downs after these ups. But one thing that is important about this preseason is the confidence building. Like most players, Lin is a very different player when he knows his head coach has his back and he’s free to be himself on the court, without fearing getting benched for a turnover or miss. If the Hornets want to look like a fun team this season (and obviously a successful one too), keeping Lin free to do his thing might be the most important thing on the to-do list.