The biggest season in a player’s career is always the upcoming one, but as Jeremy Lin begins what could be a one-year stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, it’s probably more than just a cliché.
The introduction of Jeremy Lin by the Los Angeles Lakers was another opportunity for Lin to try and put Linsanity behind him. He’s a different person, a different player. A better player, that may have actually been hurt in terms of perception due to that short period of time with the New York Knicks, in which he emerged from nowhere to take the league by storm. The anticipation for the same kind of moments from him on a regular basis have made his Houston Rockets period seem like a disappointment to some.
But that feeling and perception of his time in Houston comes only if you haven’t watched the games. The numbers from his first season in Houston – 13.4 points and 6.1 assists per game with 2.9 turnovers and inconsistent shooting performances can be interpreted in a couple of ways. For some it’s proof that he can be a solid starting point guard in the NBA, even when teams know who he is. For others it was a sign that he really isn’t the star he was for the Knicks.
The numbers from the second season keep that same train of thought. Lin’s minutes dropped and his role was reduced. Not because he played worse basketball, but because he has a head coach who never wanted him in the first place, and a back court partner who doesn’t let anything grow and flourish next to him if it’s a threat to his own numbers and individual dominance, regardless of what’s actually good for the team.
Lin is a new situation, although he’s gotten used to the spotlight. Despite not putting up superstar numbers most of the time, Lin is one of the most recognizable and mentioned NBA players on the planet. Maybe it has a lot to do with his Asian heritage and less with what he has accomplished as a basketball player up to this point, but it’s besides the point. Lin is in the spotlight, with more pressure on him than any other player of his caliber and with his unfinished résumé.
There are still too many question marks about these Los Angeles Lakers to know if it’s going to be a step in the right direction for Lin. Kobe Bryant can be just as ball dominant as James Harden. Steve Nash might not be any good anymore, but coaches don’t always go by ability but by name. But the Lakers still don’t have a head coach, so it’s quite clear that it’s too soon to determine hierarchies and playing style just yet.
For Lin as an individual it’s a big year. Not just because it’s a new opportunity after two years on a team that ultimately held back his improvement. He will be hitting his first full free agency off-season in about a year from now. Players heading into that kind of situation need leverage, and Jeremy Lin can go in with plenty of it, but he needs a team to give him the right role and opportunity to make it better for others and himself.