The Los Angeles Lakers lost (again), playing their last preseason game, 92-93 to the Sacramento Kings. Jeremy Lin once again came off the bench, and was the best player on the court excluding DeMarcus Cousins. Unless Kobe Bryant tries to steal the show too much during the season, Lin is likely to have more games like this very soon.
Lin finished with 19 points and 7 assists on 6-of-12 from the field and 5-of-6 from the line as he once again found himself with five personal fouls. Maybe it’s just the preseason, always filled with too many free throw shots and easy fouls getting called by officials. We’ll see once the regular season begins (the Lakers open on October 28 against the Rockets, which is something of a revenge game for Lin and also for Bryant, who can’t stand the sight of Dwight Howard) if it’s actually an issue.
DeMarcus Cousins led all scorers with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists. Maybe he’s already the best center in the NBA, but Cousins is looking forward to putting an official stamp on that label this season. It wasn’t too difficult against Robert Sacre and sometimes Julius Randle, as the Lakers also started with Ronnie Price (again), Ed Davis, Wesley Johnson and Wayne Ellington.
Price played only 3 minutes before leaving with a sore knee. Right now it just seems like a precaution for a team that lost Steve Nash for the entire season (not such a bad thing) but when the only other point guard aside for Lin is Jordan Clarkson, until the Lakers make a move with the probably injury exception they’re going to get for Nash (worth around $4.8 million), they need to be very careful.
So why is Lin still on the bench? Because Byron Scott is too worried about the second unit being awful. Regardless of who is the point guard, Kobe Bryant will be handling the ball most of the time when he’s on the floor. This calls for an off-the-ball kind of small guard to partner up with him. Price isn’t that type of player, and neither is Lin. But it’s funny that Price, a guy with career numbers of 3.4 points in 11.7 minutes a night over the last nine season is getting the nod in favor of Lin.
The two most important things is playing time and the role Lin gets. If he starts off the bench but plays 35 minutes a night, it doesn’t really matter, because it’ll mean he’s on the floor during the closing moments of games, where Lin usually excels. But that can only happen if Kobe Bryant allows it to. Like every other Lakers team since Phil Jackson left, the head coach is second in command when trying to run an offense and defense. Bryant can drag this team down not just with his massive, overpaying contract, but by also being the guy he has been too many times – someone who only wants to win if he’s the leading man, willing to ignore what’s best for the team, which a lot of times will be putting the ball in Lin’s hands and let him make the decision.