The biggest challenge for Jeremy Lin at training camp and in the preseason is to set the right tone with his new teammates and coaches. After two years of being forced by McHale to defer to Harden, plus his time with the Knicks when Melo came back and D’Antoni resigned, Lin may have developed a bad habit of feeling like he has to defer to his teammates. I have been hoping that Lin was working this summer to shed this mindset by the time Lakers training camp got started, but habits are not easy to break. They take time and they also take action. In other words, Lin needs to make an effort to not defer to his teammates in order to break his habit of feeling like he has to defer and in order to do that, he needs time on the floor with his teammates to practice not deferring to them.
Obviously, there are a lot of things wrong with Lin’s time in Houston, which I won’t go into, because I assume readers of this blog are all too familiar with them. But one of the things that readers of this blog may not be aware of is that I think Lin set the wrong tone with his new teammates in Houston during training camp even before Harden joined the squad. Lin was really self-conscious of all the attention he was receiving about being the franchise of the team (remember, this was before Harden signed on) and so he made extra efforts to downplay himself during training camp by not playing aggressively, not playing his game. This set the wrong tone that I think sort of stuck with him throughout his time with the Rockets. I wrote about this extensively here. Obviously, there were a lot of other issues that had everything to do with McHale being a Lin Doubter (and probably Hater), so Lin’s performance during training camp probably wouldn’t have made any difference in the bigger scheme of things anyhow. Nevertheless, the tone Lin set with his new teammates and coaches in Houston may have reinforced their feelings that Linsanity was just a fluke and so they didn’t give him much respect from the get-go.
Yesterday, it was reported that Lin led the second unit to outplay Kobe and the first unit during scrimmage:
It was also reported that Nick Young wasn’t part of the scrimmage, because he injured his thumb the day before. I’m glad to hear that Jeremy led the bench when Nick Young was out, but at the same time, it makes me a little concerned that Jeremy Lin may have been deferring to Nick Young during scrimmage and not playing his game. The caveat here is that practice is very different from games. In practice, you are working on specific sets and some sets play to a player’s strengths and some don’t. So it may just have been that the sets they were working on in Friday’s practice was more favorable to Lin’s game. I have no idea, since I didn’t get to see the practice.
I just hope Lin has learned his lesson in Houston and I hope he is able to get his subconscious to recognize that he is with a new team and a new coach and that he no longer plays like he has developed a habit of playing under McHale who was the most stifling coach for him. He needs to get his subconscious to realize that he’s finally free of McHale/Harden and can finally play his game and take full advantage of this. He needs to not be afraid or self-conscious to show his new teammates and coaches his gifts. Show them his hyper-aggressive style of play and show them how he can help the team win by playing his game.
When Lin doesn’t defer, he puts up superstar numbers, but more importantly, he helps his team win games. Without Melo and Harden, Lin averages 22.72 points and 7.72 Assists. And last season, when Harden was injured and McHale was FORCED to let Lin play his game, the Rockets had 6 wins and 2 losses and we all know the winning streak Lin strung together during Linsanity when Melo was out. During Linsanity, Lin also made guys like Jefferies, Fields and Novak look good and he actually even made Tyson Chandler an offensive threat. Without Lin, these players went back to their old selves. When Lin plays his game and is not concerned about deferring to his teammates, he makes all four guys on the court better. So Lin playing unabashedly aggressively, loose and free is good for his teammates and the team. I wrote a string of Tweets to Lin about these things, yesterday, which I highly doubt he will ever see. But it doesn’t hurt to try.
Anyway, I think Lin is in a good place. I think Byron is going to be a good coach for Lin and hopefully Kobe will be a good teammate. The key thing Lin needs to do is set the right tone now, because the first impression is critical. Everyone is feeling everyone out right now. Lin needs to show that he’s a hyper-aggressive player who isn’t going to defer to others and that he can actually benefit others and the team when he gets to play his game. Once his teammates and coaches see this, they will buy in and let him play the way he did during Linsanity. Not that I’m saying he should have the ball in his hands all the time. The biggest criticism I have of D’Antoni (and I have lots of them) is that he didn’t allow Lin to play off the ball and run off screens without the ball. I’m hoping Scott will provide a little more balance and let Lin play off the ball some. But that’s a whole other conversation.
Through this preseason, I’ll be watching to see the extent to which McHale’s two years of stifling coaching still plagues Lin and causes him to continue to defer to others and not play loose and free. Hope Lin develops the habit of playing aggressively and loose and free as soon as possible and I hope he has people around him who understand the importance of this and can coach him through this.