The Charlotte Hornets keep winning their preseason games, and Jeremy Lin seems to be getting better and growing more confident with each one that goes by, this time showing the Chicago Bulls that it probably was a mistake not to sign him during the offseason.
Quite a few teams were looking for a backup point guard in the offseason. The Bulls chose not to change anything and stay with Aaron Brooks, who isn’t a bad player, but was the one who especially struggled coping with Lin in the 94-86 win for the Hornets. Maybe the situation itself wasn’t one Lin loved, because he did look very carefully at the offers he received and the options in front of him, but the Bulls could have used someone like Lin, especially with their usual starting point guard so often injured.
But that’s in the past. Lin is with the Hornets and from what we’re seeing in the preseason, loving every minute of it. He finished with 18 points on 6-of-8 from the field, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. He took the ball to the basket on every opportunity he got, with a screen working for him or without. He had no problem dealing with Kirk Hinrich, a very frustrated Brooks or even E’Twaun Moore. Lin got easily to the line (5-of-9) and wasn’t afraid of scoring on Joakim Noah when he actually came to help his struggling point guards.
The best example of Lin’s confidence wasn’t just his drives to the paint which either created an easy opportunity for him or a clear path for one of his teammates. It was his jumpers, often coming off screens and the quick release he had on them. You might recall Lin being hesitant at times to shoot the ball when playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, even when he was wide open. He’s more confident in his outside shot now in general, but it’s clear that his preseason success with the Hornets is adding to his self-assurance in long range shooting.
Kemba Walker scored 22 points for the Hornets, starting next to Nicolas Batum in the backcourt as the Hornets played a very big starting lineup that included Cody Zeller, Marvin Williams and Al Jefferson. Don’t be surprised if this is the eventual lineup for the Hornets, because Williams is originally a small forward and Batum was planned to be the team’s shooting guard before Michael Kidd-Gilchrist went down with a long-term injury.
However, while it’s always good to be prepared for anything, there are just too many limitations in going with this lineup for the long term. Batum scored 14 points but was just 1-of-6 from beyond the arc and the Hornets, launching 31 shots, hit only 10 of them. Spencer Hawes did a good job of setting up Lin a few times with screens didn’t do anything when it wasn’t Lin feeding him the ball. P.J. Hairston scored 11 points and Al Jefferson finished with 9.
We didn’t learn anything new about what role will Lin fill during the regular season, at least in terms of specificity. But right now, for him and the Hornets things are looking up. It’s never smart to put too much stock in preseason performances and especially the wins, but it obviously tells us what a head coach thinks of a player. Lin might not be a starting player at the end of the day, but the Hornets rely on him to be more than just a backup point guard.