The Charlotte Hornets have proven time and time again they’re not counting on Jeremy Lin to be a key player for them in what remains of this season or the future. This makes the next two months big for Lin, as he once again prepares to venture into free agency.
Lin got all the proof he needed after the Hornets stunned the Cleveland Cavaliers while he scored 24 points to go with 8 assists, doing it all without Kemba Walker even playing. This was a possible turning point for the Hornets and an opportunity to see how their basketball can look like with a real point guard running the show. But this is a team that seems to almost fear creativity and intelligence when it comes to the playmaker. Instead, Walker got back, Lin was dropped to the bench, and the Hornets went back to relying on the shooting days of Walker and Nicolas Batum, which went pretty well in the next few games, but is one of those fool’s gold scenarios, pretty much putting all of your golden eggs in a basket made out of Walker’s shooting touch during a certain day.
And yet Lin is important to the Hornets. Unlike some expected, they didn’t try and move him during the days leading up to the deadline. It wasn’t just about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist getting injured. The Hornets can’t function without a good backup point guard leading their second unit, and once Lin shook off the disappointment of pretty much having his best work being ignored, he’s one of the best options in the NBA to have coming off the bench and breathing life into a team that’s looking for a little bit of spark.
The Hornets adding Courtney Lee means Lin isn’t “at risk” of playing 30 minutes a night or something like that, unless there’s an injury. The starting lineup is clear, with Walker, Batum and Lee as the perimeter trio. While the Hornets did send away P.J. Hairston which could somehow bump Lin in the minute column a bit, the plan is probably for Lee to play at least 30 minutes a night, as a shooting guard or a small forward. There’s also Jeremy Lamb in this equation. Not enough minutes for a player who deserves to be leading this team, because he makes people around him better, even if the stats don’t always look glossy.
The Hornets, like the rest of the league, get back in business following the All-Star break, which should have helped a team like Charlotte, drowning in minor injuries, to get back on track. No, it’s not bringing MKG back and Al Jefferson could be done for the season, no one knows (and no one was willing to take him via trade). They do it against the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that looked to make a few trades but failed, and seems to be stuck with a squad they mostly believe in, but don’t think it can get them into the postseason by April.
The Hornets, right now, make the playoffs. Will they still be in this position while riding the Walker train? Hard to say. A lot of it will depend on the mood of Lin when he comes off the bench and his ability to hit shots. He’s been inconsistent for stretches this season as a shooter, but when he’s rolling, the Hornets look great, which is unlike Walker, whose good games don’t necessarily mean a great one for Charlotte as well. How Lee operates in this new system on both ends of the floor, which includes covering for Walker’s defensive lapses, will obviously play a huge part in what happens in the remaining 30 games.