Saturday, April 23, 2016

Jeremy Lin Continues To Recreate Linsanity

Hornets guard Jeremy Lin drove on the Heat’s Goran Dragic in Game 2 of their first-round N.B.A. playoff series. Credit Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

At Last, Jeremy Lin Settles Into Identity of His Own Making

MIAMI — Over the past five years, Jeremy Lin has felt multiple disparate identities foisted upon him: undrafted underdog, franchise savior, overpaid mercenary. None quite fit.
But over these past six months, a fresh calibration seems to have occurred. A half-step away from the spotlight, Lin has nurtured an existence that now comfortably rests somewhere between the short-burst ecstasy of his time with the Knicks and the protracted bewilderment of his stints with the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Meet Jeremy Lin, solid basketball player.
As a reserve this season for the Charlotte Hornets, Lin contributed steadily to a group that enjoyed an exciting run to the playoffs. He reasserted himself as a deft scorer, capable of catching fire in the right conditions. After finishing seventh in the N.B.A.’s sixth man of the year voting, he reset his value as an attractive target for teams this summer, should he, as expected, decide to become a free agent.
In an interview this week, Lin said that he felt liberated by a firmer sense of who he is.
“I think I’m just in a different place, mentally, spiritually, where I’m able to enjoy this job more and more,” Lin said. “The lows don’t affect me the way they used to anymore.”
At the risk of speaking too soon, it seems as though Lin has broken out of the grating cycle of hype and backlash that shadowed him after a sudden emergence with the Knicks in 2011-12 catapulted him to the national stage.
The most provocative thing about Lin this season might have been his changing hairstyles. Lin has been trying to grow his hair out to some unspecified length, and the process led him to improvise various coiffures: Mohawks, side parts, ponytails. He laughed this week about the way fans on social media and interviewers had tried to use his hair as a window to his inner life, to find some symbolism in the hairdos, to attach some special meaning to styling gel.
“It’s taken on a life of its own, which I never expected,” Lin said. “I’m just trying to have fun with it.”
Lin, pictured in December, laughed this week about the way fans on social media have tried to find some symbolism in his different hairstyles this season. Credit Scott Halleran/Getty Images

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Fun was missing at times over the last few years. He languished on the Rockets from 2012 to 2014, often watching from the corner as James Harden handled the team’s creative responsibilities. With the Lakers last season, he seemed miscast in the team’s ponderous offensive system.
Lin was a free agent after the Lakers’ 21-win season, and suitors were not quite knocking down his door. But the Hornets envisioned a role for him, and Coach Steve Clifford pitched him a system that would emphasize fast play and pick-and-rolls — the lively conditions in which Lin thrives. The Hornets, who had missed the playoffs in 2015, had ambitions to re-establish themselves as postseason contenders. It was an intriguing opportunity.
“Going through what he went through last year, and then coming here and having a chance to do something special, he was down for it,” Charlotte center Al Jefferson said. “In this league, you want a winning situation, and normally everything else will take care of itself.”
Lin signed a modest contract: two years for $4.37 million, with a player option on the second year. It has been a mutually beneficial agreement. At Jefferson’s request, Lin helped to revive and organize the Hornets’ road trip Bible study group, which had gone dormant last season. Jefferson said the entire team had attended the final session of the regular season.
On the court, Lin averaged 16.1 points per 36 minutes during the regular season, his highest single-season average since his days in New York. In five games, he notched 25 points or more, including a 35-point performance against the Toronto Raptors in January and a 29-point game in a surprise win over the San Antonio Spurs in March.

Lin passed to his Hornets teammate Cody Zeller in a game in Milwaukee in March.
Credit Morry Gash/Associated Press
As the season wound down, Clifford praised Lin for a “terrific year.” He said there were facets of his game that seemed to have gone underappreciated.
“He’s a much, much better defender than people realize,” Clifford said. “He competes hard every night, and he’s a very serious player.”
Lin kept a low profile all season. His name re-entered the national conversation this month, however, when a fan named Hsiu-Chen Kuei from San Jose, Calif., uploaded a homemade video to YouTube that showed multiple instances in which Lin had drawn hard contact from opponents. Kuei questioned why flagrant fouls had not been called. The video was widely viewed.
An article in The New York Times about Kuei and the video prompted the N.B.A. to issue a statement saying essentially that Lin’s common and flagrant foul numbers were in line with league norms.
Lin shrugged this week when asked what he thought about the N.B.A.’s response. He seemed to find it a bit perplexing.
“That doesn’t address the issue,” Lin said. “To me, not everybody drives the same way, not everybody goes to the basket the same way, not everybody takes contact the same way. I mean, it is what it is. They made their statement. All I know is, you’ve just got to watch the film.”
But Lin did not want to criticize the officiating. He said that it was out of his control and that he had other matters to worry about. The Hornets fell behind in their series against the Miami Heat, two games to none, with a loss on Wednesday night. He scored 9 points in Game 1 and 11 points in Game 2 and is among the many Hornets players who will need to improve in Game 3 on Saturday to make the series competitive.

Lin demurred, too, when asked whether he might opt out of his contract this summer and what he might seek. He said that it would be disrespectful to the Hornets organization and to his teammates to discuss personal business during this postseason run.
Several teams could use his services. The Nets’ hiring of Kenny Atkinson, an Atlanta Hawks assistant who had been an assistant with the Knicks during the Linsanity days, to lead their team next season prompted some media outlets to speculate whether Brooklyn would be an attractive destination for Lin. Lin did not entertain any notion that there was significance to the connection. But he was more than happy to heap praise on his former coach.
“I’ve kind of been saying it was just a matter of time for him because I know how good he is, I know how much he was there for me in New York,” Lin said. “When you’re around him, you kind of understand there’s something different about him: his energy, his passion, the juice he approaches his work with.”

Lin added: “He doesn’t leave any stone unturned. He’s always the first one in, and I’m saying first one in by, like, hours.”
Clifford offered similar praise for Lin’s work ethic. He called him a serious player who puts in extra work every day. Since last summer, Lin’s focus has been on altering his jump shot — still a weak point in his game — with help from a shooting coach. Clifford predicted Lin’s 3-point-shooting percentage would rise starting next season.
“I think he’s got another big jump in his game,” Clifford said.
And then, maybe, another label in a short career full of them. — Andrew Keh | The New York Times

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