So what to make of Jeremy Lin’s debut for the Atlanta Hawks in regular season capacity? Mostly, it made me think of how quickly things can change in the NBA, and where Lin is now in terms of role and perception compared to his arrival in Brooklyn not that long ago.
Lin played in short spurts in each of the 4 quarters to compile 8 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in under 14 minutes of play. He looked aggressive with the ball, taking it to the hoop whenever he had the chance, showing his usual knack of taking advantage when favorable mismatches appear before him. His jumper wasn’t there (0-2 for three), his defense wasn’t special (it might have to do with rust, especially his legs needing more action before they get back into rhythm) and most disappointing, he didn’t get to really share significant minutes with rookie Trae Young.
The Hawks? They lost, as expected, to the New York Knicks, 126-107. There are going to be plenty of score lines such as this during the season, but I do hope Lin’s 13 minute appearance isn’t the norm. I’d like to see Lin play more next to Kent Bazemore, and maybe see a Lin-Young-Bazemore variation at times. The Hawks have the luxury of experimenting considering they’re the favorites of almost everyone to finish with the worst record in the NBA this season.
As for what we mentioned in the beginning, there’s a melancholic pinch to seeing Lin playing for the Hawks. He’s already had something of a comeback, build-up-your reputation season with the Charlotte Hornets in 2015-2016, a season that landed him the starting job and a nice contract with the Brooklyn Nets. Bad luck, which means injuries in NBA jargon, took that opportunity and snatched it away from him, as Lin played only 37 games in 2 years for the Nets (just 25 minutes last season before it all came crashing down).
Can Lin land a starting role in the NBA again? At 30, with the league going the direction it is, that’s not likely, but that’s no longer the goal – not this season. Contract years are different for each player; for Lin it’s about showing someone he deserves a meaningful role on a roster, preferably on a team with high aspirations. The Hawks aren’t that team – not in the short term, but despite their obvious commitment to Young, this might be a suitable proving ground for Lin that allows him to show he’s still a dangerous game-changer in this league.