Whether the Charlotte Hornets have a good postseason or not (which means winning at least one series); whether Jeremy Lin is pleased with his accomplishments in the playoffs, this is just the bridge to an offseason in which Lin is most likely going to find himself another team to play for.
Being realistic, the Hornets, via Steve Clifford on the sidelines, aren’t likely to suddenly change everything they’ve done this season and turn Lin into a key piece in their plan on a nightly basis. By key piece we don’t mean being part of the rotation. He already is that, and even those who haven’t been supporters from his beginning in North Carolina have to admit the Hornets don’t make it this far without Lin’s contribution.
But in order for Lin to rise into a position of controlling the flow of the game for the Hornets in more than just small samples unconnected throughout the game, it takes eating a chunk out of the possession time Kemba Walker has with the ball, and a little into what Nicolas Batum does. The funny thing is the Hornets have done it a number of times this season, sometimes because they were forced to. On most occasions, it worked a lot better than their head coach believed it would.
Clifford is aware of how good Lin can be when he gets the confidence boost right from the start and the ball in his hands to play and run the offense he likes and feels comfortable with. And yet he believes, combined with contract and status issues, that sustaining things as they are, which means keeping Walker as this untouched figure within the confines of a 48-minute basketball game regardless of how well or poorly he does, is the best way for the Hornets to win games.
If things don’t go well, Clifford will turn to Lin in hope of him saving the day. It has happened before. It doesn’t always work. Lin, like a lot of players who need the ball in their hands to make “it” work, rises and falls on confidence and rhythm. Messing around with that can lead to less than desirable results. Lin has had his share of bad shooting games this season. Yes, it had something to do with ankle injuries, elbow pains and the much debated shooting form that changed at some point. But it had a lot to do with Clifford killing Lin’s momentum whenever his sixth man had a big game, quite often against one of the best teams in the NBA.
What’s next for Lin after this? Hard to say. A lot depends on how much is revealed during the playoffs. There are already theories suggesting he’ll go wherever Mike D’Antonio will coach, with his name linked to three our four teams at the moment, and who knows how many by the time the postseason is over. And maybe the Hornets will surprise everyone once Lin opts out of his deal and make him an offer he can refuse. But right now, it’s hard to believe Lin will settle for a few more years of backing up or playing next to Kemba Walker, who might not be the best thing for the Hornets, but they’re sticking to the storyline of him as their #1, untouchable guy no matter what happens.