An interesting season for the Los Angeles Lakers, with Jeremy Lin finding himself with a great opportunity to put the bad times of playing next to James Harden and under Kevin McHale behind him. Kobe Bryant presents an intriguing backcourt partner, and one that despite the early fears might be able to make the best out of the situation.
It’s hard to think of a reason why Jeremy Lin wouldn’t be the starting point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers next season. Maybe we’ll find another curveball surprise that puts Nash in the lineup instead of him, but Nash, at this stage of his career, won’t be able to play more than 15-20 minutes at best, and I’m not sure he can really make a contribution during most of that time frame.
Obviously, we have the options of three-guard lineups or even going without a point guard, but Lin, unless Kevin McHale suddenly becomes the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, is going to see plenty of minutes, getting an opportunity to show his worth for an entire season, getting ready to set himself up for a summer of free agency, in which he hopefully will have enough of leverage and demand to choose the right situation for himself.
Maybe the key to Lin’s success isn’t just the head coach. As we’ve seen in Los Angeles before, Kobe Bryant does whatever he wants. It doesn’t matter if it’s Mike Brown or Mike D’Antoni on the sidelines. Whoever gets the job, isn’t going to be exactly free to make any decision he wants to when it comes to lineups, minutes and what players do on the floor. Kobe Bryant, no matter how fit or good he is anymore, is making $24 million a season and is the face of this franchise.
The Lakers aren’t going to win a championship this season. They might not even make the playoffs, but they’re probably set up to do better than the awful 2013-2014 season. A lot of it has to do with Bryant not just staying healthy, but willing to let his ego be set aside, and his frustration with how the twilight of his career will look. Instead of landing LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, the Lakers are waiting for the summer of 2015. Now their hopes are focused on Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo next summer, but the two of them might slip through their fingers as well.
Bryant loves the ball in his hands. He also loves to shoot 20-25 times a game. The few times he did play last season showed us – rust and age being the cause, that he is going to be a different player once he is back full time. Maybe more of a spot up shooter? Less mobile with the ball? Bryant is going to get less attention from defenses, and the Lakers will need to make the most of it.
The ball in Lin’s hand is a good choice. When Bryant doesn’t let his selfish side take over, he’s an excellent decision maker with the ball. This isn’t the James Harden situation, who is a player who is simply inferior to Lin when it comes to being a point guard. Bryant can play that role, but that means once again putting Lin in the wrong situation and wasting his talents. The Lakers will look better if Bryant doesn’t feel like he needs to do everything on his own again.
A year after hitting rock bottom, it’s time for a slow build towards the top again, although it won’t come in one season. Maybe Jeremy Lin as a Lakers is just a temporary fix for them as a team making the best of a bad situation or it’s really a player who can eventually find himself being a big-time player for them for more than one season. It depends on how much Lin will improve this summer in order to take advantage of the opportunity, but it also depends on how much Kobe Bryant is willing to let go, which hasn’t been easy for him to do in the past.