Besides their occasional win, the Brooklyn Nets have been in wait mode for over a month. Now, the wait is over, sort of: Jeremy Lin is practicing again, which means his return to the court is coming.
Lin has been out since the 5th game of the season, leaving the 109-101 win over the Detroit Pistons early due to a hamstring injury. It was always going to be a two-week absence at best, but it has turned into over a month of the team missing its best player. Since then, the Nets have gone 4-12, including a 7-game losing streak in November, ranking 22nd in the NBA offensively and 27th defensively, with their high-paced offense simply waiting for the only player on this team who can run it to return.
It’s been a frustrating wait not just for Nets fans who were hoping to see their team begin some sort of new direction this season, but also for those who follow Lin closely throughout his career. Just when he got his big break – leading a team as the starting point guard and ball handler, something that has been long overdue, the annoying injury came. Not something that should have long term consequences, but an annoying delay in what could have been a very different situation for both Lin and the Nets in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Playoff hopes? Weren’t high anyway, but let’s just play around with numbers a bit. The 8th spot in the East belongs to the 13-12 Detroit Pistons. For the Nets to finish the season at .500 or better, they’re going to need at least 35 wins in the remaining 61 games. That’s winning 57.3% of their games, something only the Hornets, Raptors and Cavaliers are doing right now in the East. In the West, 7 teams have a better winning percentage.
And what about the 30-win season prediction? A lot more doable. The Nets need 24 more wins in the remaining 61 games, 39.3%. That’s somewhere between the Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards right now. Doable. But Lin isn’t back right away (maybe at home against the Lakers on December 14), and it might take him some time to gain full control of the team again, which is the best thing the Nets can hope for.
Lin isn’t the only player coming back. Caris LeVert made his NBA debut. That’s step one. Now he needs to score his first NBA point, after finishing 0-for-3 from the field in nine minutes in the 116-111 win over the Denver Nuggets. LeVert will hopefully show all the things the Nets saw in him when they drafted him soon enough: Shooting, versatility, defense. He doesn’t need to be a superstar anyway, but on a team that has so little to trust on a game-to-game basis, a solid rookie is a tremendous addition.