Jeremy Lin, Steve Clifford

It’s almost common knowledge that this season, his first with the Charlotte Hornets, is the biggest and most important one to date for Jeremy Lin since his NBA career began. But wait, weren’t the last three seasons also started on the same note?

Lin is beginning the next chapter of his career on a slightly weird note. It’s been more than three years since he erupted onto the scene with the New York Knicks and the “Linsanity” phase, which Lin has a weird relationship with. Like a band trying to avoid being defined by their biggest hit, like Radiohead with Creep for a lot of years .

When he signed with the Houston Rockets, it was supposed to be his opportunity. A team that builds around him, something that wasn’t going to happen next to Carmelo Anthony and in the domain of James Dolan. But then James Harden was signed, and Kevin McHale never really wanted Lin to be his point guard.

The Los Angeles Lakers trade seemed like an opportunity, but it really wasn’t. Not under Byron Scott, not under Kobe Bryant. Lin had his moments, but overall, he was suffocated and demoted while the team allowed itself to be carried by an incompetent coach and an ego-filled former NBA great, until the tanking began. The thing is Scott actually thinks he helped Lin become a better player.

It’s not that Lin didn’t have great games in the three years since leaving the Knicks; he has. But Linsanity still stands out because things have been inconsistent for him, especially in the way he’s been treated by his head coaches and used by the team. Lin hasn’t been perfect through the years, but the inability to upgrade his status in this league to an undisputed starting point guard has mostly to do with the circumstances, not his ability and performances.

Steve Clifford is the next coach to tackle the Lin phenomenon. He actually seems excited about having him. A player who can bring a lot of things the Hornets offense was missing last season (and also when they actually made the playoffs in 2014). More passing, more shooting, and creativity that has been sorely lacking. But things said in July don’t always turn out to be true in October.

Lin is confident about this season. Besides being the smart business decision, it’s a two-year deal he signed for a bargain $4.7 million overall, but he does have a player option, allowing him to opt out and cash in on the salary camp getting that much talked about 30% rise. This time he might finally be playing for a head coach that won’t try to get in his way. As every phase of his career has shown, Lin playing well and relatively free is quite often the best thing for the team he is on.

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