As the Jeremy Lin hype picks up steam and momentum, there’s Steve Clifford to pour some cold water on it. The last 48 hours have been interesting from a social media and PR standpoint, showing what might be conflicting interests within the franchise regarding Lin’s role with the team and his potential future.
After another very good game from Jeremy Lin, Steve Clifford had two interesting things to say: That the win over the San Antonio Spurs was in no way better or more special than the win over the Nets, and that Lin has always been a backup player after questioned whether Lin’s recent form (66 points over the last three games and being the catalyst in the two consecutive wins) merits a place in the lineup.
I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories, but the NBA doesn’t always work in a way that follows “play well, play a lot”. You don’t always get what you deserve, and relationships with the head coach and front office or simply what they think about you, sometimes without any actual reason for it, means more than ability and performance. And when Clifford said something like that about Lin, there are two options: Either he doesn’t regard him as his key player, or someone in the front office feels that way and the order was passed down to Clifford. Be it in order to protect the status of Kemba Walker as the superstar/face of this team or just because it seems Lin isn’t going to be a Hornets player next season (suddenly, after two games, who the heck knows).
But after Clifford says this, two interesting things happen: Hornets PR, who haven’t been too complimentary of Lin this season, tweet out his numbers in recent games, and Clifford has an interview on Jim Rome, pulling a complete 180 regarding Lin, almost out of the blue.
In last 3 games, @hornets Jeremy Lin is averaging 22.0 ppg & 4.0 rpg while shooting 62.5 FG% & 87.5 3FG%.
— Charlotte Hornets PR (@HornetsPR) March 25, 2016
Suddenly, Clifford isn’t trying to maintain his stance that Lin is a backup/bench player and nothing more. By the way, Lin has more career starts than appearances off the bench, but who needs numbers? Career backup, right. Anyway, on the Rome interview, Clifford talks about how he gets the ball going to the paint, his quickness & he’s so strong and he’s a very good defender. In short? Invaluable. After the win over the Nets players were complimenting Lin, Clifford was talking about Nicolas Batum. Nothing wrong with that, but it seems like he was trying to avoid giving kudos to Lin a bit too hard, until someone whispered something in his ear.
— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) March 25, 2016
And there’s this: Lin on the cover of a gameday preview for the Hornets against the Detroit Pistons. Not the first time Lin appears on something like this for Charlotte, but there is this kind of vibe that’s someone is trying to cover up for things Clifford said. Michael Jordan said some warm things about Lin when the season began. He sees the crowd’s reaction to Lin when he’s playing well on the home floor. Jordan, unless we’re reading this all wrong, would like Lin to stay on board. Clifford trying to downplay good games from Lin by even saying a win over the Spurs is just like a win over Brooklyn isn’t helping anyone.