Jeremy Lin – Building a Playoff Legacy

Jeremy Lin scoring on the Boston Celtics

For the fourth time in his NBA career, Jeremy Lin has helped a team into the NBA playoffs. With the Charlotte Hornets he has a shot at expanding his so far very limited postseason repertoire, although it obviously has a lot to do with which side of the bed Steve Clifford and partially Kemba Walker wake up on.

Lin helped the Knicks into the 2012 NBA playoffs, but he was injured during their short postseason experience. A season later with the Houston Rockets Lin tasted the playoffs for the first time, as the Rockets made it in for the first time since 2009. Lin played injured (chest) and didn’t really make an impact, averaging just 4 points in 21 minutes per game, looking a bit overwhelmed with everything, although the injury did limit him. Maybe the most memorable moment for him in that short run (he also missed two games in the series) was Kevin Durant aggravating his injury with a cheap play of trying to steal a ball while Lin was calling for timeout.

The next season, the Rockets made the playoffs with home court advantage in their series against the Portland Trail Blazers. Lin at this point was a sixth man because of Patrick Beverley being preferred. Lin played a lot better, averaging 11.3 points with 4.3 assists in 29.5 minutes a night, including a terrific performance in game 5 of that series to help keep the Rockets alive with 21 points. However, James Harden was awful in that series, and Lin wasn’t exactly counted upon to play a big role by a head coach who never really saw a key player in him.

Lin scored 13 points in the first win by the Rockets (game 3) over the Blazers, a 121-116 overtime win. Nicolas Batum, then with the Blazers, sent that game into overtime. After Damian Lillard missed a three poitner with the game tied at 116-116, James Harden provided his special brand of basketball and ran into a dead end, lost the ball, but Lin saved the broken play and dished out a beatiful assist to Troy Daniels (current teammates; funny how things work) to knock down the three that basically won the game. (Hat Tip – Nathan)

There’s no real need to talk about the Lakers season, right? They were the furthest thing from a playoff team, and one season there was enough for Lin. He joined the Charlotte Hornets hoping for a key role. It’s been an up & down season for Lin. Less in terms of ability and productivity, but more in terms of what the coach wants from him, asks him to do and actually allows him to do. The more he gets to touch the ball and run the offense, the better it usually is for the Hornets and obviously for Lin, with their biggest wins of the season in terms of difficulty coming along with his finest performances: Raptors with 35 points, Spurs with 29 points, Celtics with 25 points and the Cavaliers with 24 points.

And against Miami? Hasn’t done too well, averaging 8.5 points in only 20 minutes a night through four games. He actually scored 17 points in the season opening loss to the Heat, but got a combined 53 minutes in the next three games. In their most recent win over the Heat (split the season series 2-2) Lin scored six points, four of them pretty much clinching the win from the line as the Hornets won 109-106.

To beat the Heat, the Hornets need to stay away from Miami’s strengths. And that means Jeremy Lin needs a bigger part. They don’t have anyone who can run a fast, transition or fast break offense like he does, and playing slow basketball with plenty of isolations and half court looks is perfect for what the Heat want to do. Clifford probably wants to keep going in the same direction he has all season -Walker, Walker and Walker again, but while it may result in impressive numbers for the franchise’s darling, it’s not going to give them any sort of edge. For a franchise that doesn’t have a playoff series win if you consider them the Bobcats, or one that hasn’t saw that kind of success in way more than a decade, they can’t stick to the doing things the easy and do what everyone expects them to.

Lin has had a nice NBA career so far considering how it started and where it was headed after about a year and a half. But circumstances, more than his own ability, has left something of an underachieving feeling or to be more accurate, not being where he could have been by now. Going into the offseason with something to show from the postseason, if Clifford will put him in the position to do something, would be a nice way of expanding his selection pool and maybe add some digits to his next contract.

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