The dream escape from James Harden, Kevin McHale and the Houston Rockets is turning into a nightmare for Jeremy Lin, with new villains in the form of Byron Scott, Kobe Bryant and Nick Young to make his Los Angeles Lakers experience get worse by the minute.
The Lakers losing can’t be pinned on one or two players, but Scott decided that it’s Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer that are dragging this team down. He benched both of them, something Boozer has been responding to quite well actually, while Lin suddenly sees a D-League player like Ronnie Price starting ahead of him. Since getting benched, Lin is averaging 3 points and four assists while shooting 20% from the field in two games. Not exactly a large sample size, but obviously there’s a problem.
Sure, Lin hasn’t been electrifying in Laker land since landing a starting spot mostly due to the fact that Steve Nash proved how bad his back really is. Byron Scott initially intended for Lin to be the backup point guard, playing alongside Julius Randle, Nick Young, Xavier Henry and Ed Davis in a second unit that’s suppose to be more athletic and faster. Maybe actually better than the starting lineup. Things have changed.
Nash is out not just for the season, but for his career. Xavier Henry won’t play this season again, and the promising rookie Randle is out. Ed Davis is now in the lineup while Carlos Boozer is coming off the bench, and Nick Young doesn’t leave a lot of time for anyone with the ball since coming back from his injury, averaging 12.3 shots per game while shooting 38.5% from the field in only 25.2 minutes on the floor.
Lin suffers next to him, as he did next to Bryant, although Bryant does have those moments when he suddenly acts like a true team player and starts feeling what’s right for the specific moment in the game. Either that or Jeremy Lin was feeling it, but there have been times when Lin was allowed to play like he knows best, and Lin’s confidence was high enough to allow him to produce at the level some of us still expect him to.
Like his 21 points, 7 assists game against the Hornets, his 15 points and 10 assists in the win over the Hawks, 18 points with 11 assists and 4 steals against the Timberwolves or his 14 points in 19 minutes against the Boston Celtics, the game that made Scott decide to put the blame on Lin for losing so badly.
Everyone expected Bryan to be back with a vengeance, but I think he’s even surprising himself with the amount of shots he’s taking and the selfishness he’s showing on the floor. He’s averaging 22.4 shots a night. He’s leading the NBA in field goal attempts not because he’s the best player in the league, but because he has the biggest ego in the league, and an endless credit to make mistakes on the floor. It’s hard to thrive in the same backcourt as that.
More minutes for Lin without Bryant means more opportunities to playing a bit more like himself, but Nick Young is another obstacle to overcome. Byron Scott doesn’t really have a plan. The team defense numbers show that (114.6 points per 100 possession, worst in the league) and watching this offense operate indicates it’s mostly about hoping Bryant makes the right choice with the ball. And if he doesn’t? Find someone else to blame.
Lin is in a risky spot concerning the rest of his NBA career. Things can actually get worse from here, although there’s just to much talent to be wasted here. It’s not all his fault, but he’s not in a position that will earn him too many favors from coaches and teammates. If he’s going to escape this situation, it’s up to him. Nick Young isn’t going to suddenly push the ball in his direction or give up on shots. Lin needs to make some selfish choices out there. Most of the time, it won’t be just good for him, but it’ll be beneficial for the Lakers.