Any Argument for Why Lin is More Needed with Second Unit is Misguided and Disturbing

So, I keep hearing the same seemingly logical reasoning about how Lin is so needed with the second unit and why it makes sense to not start Lin. This line of reasoning sounds sensible on its surface, so many well-meaning people (as well as Haters) trot this out as valid reasons to not start Lin. But when you dig deeper, this line of reasoning turns out to be very misguided and disturbing.

Isn’t it interesting how Lin all of a sudden becomes so valuable when it comes to running any second unit? Everyone needs Lin to run their second unit, because NO ONE but Lin can run the second unit. It’s funny how every team without Lin seems to somehow make do with average Point Guards running their second unit, but the moment Lin joins a team, all of a sudden NO ONE is capable of running the second unit but Lin. And whatever team Lin joins, the starting lineup suddenly doesn’t need anyone to run it. The starting lineup of any team Lin joins is suddenly able to run itself, no real PGs needed. We just need a mediocre PG with the starting lineup, because the starters can run themselves.

Also, it seems like every team Lin joins, the second unit becomes SO critical. The fate of the team depends on having a scorer on the second unit and there are suddenly no scorers to be had on the second unit. Lin is the only one who is capable of scoring for the second unit.

An interesting stat for well-meaning people who trot out this insane line of reasoning is that most of the teams that made it to the playoffs last season had some of the worst benches. So this whole idea that the bench is SO IMPORTANT and that Lin is the only guy who can run it and is needed to make the bench competitive is so misguided. The reality is, you want your best guys starting, because starters play the most minutes, with only a few rare exceptions. You want your best guys on the floor most of the time. Starters also finish games, just because of the logistics of substitutions and rest times, etc. It’s more logistically challenging to have someone coming off the bench also finish games. I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just saying that it’s a lot more natural to have the guys who start games finish games. If you try to have a bench player finish games, then somewhere during the game they’re playing more minutes at any given time than they probably should. Hope that makes sense.

Don’t even get me started on seemingly well-meaning people who say that it doesn’t matter if you start or not. Or that you don’t have to start to have a significant impact on the game. This is just factually wrong! These people give Ginobli as an example. It’s as if these people have never heard of the concept called “the exception that proves the rule”. The reality is, only a few players in the league have a significant impact from the bench. Most impact players come from the starting unit. There’s a reason why any coach would be crucified if they didn’t start, say, LeBron (I’m using an extreme example to prove a point–relax, I’m not comparing Lin to King James). If starting isn’t important, then why are there no superstars coming off the bench?

The reality is, starting is important. The reality is, starters generally get the most playing time. The reality is, starters generally finish games. Somehow, when it comes to Lin, simple logic goes out the window.

In this particular case, with this particular Lakers team, Lin is needed with the starting unit, because the success of the starting unit is more important to the success of the team overall. The reason why this is so is simply because the starting unit is on the court most of the time for a team, so they have the most influence on the success or failure of a team.

When it comes to this Lakers team, Kobe is too old to be the primary play maker, so they really do need Lin with the starting unit. Sure, it would be great if we could clone Lin and he can run both the first and second unit. But we can’t. So given that we only have one Jeremy Lin on the team, it only makes logical sense to put your best point guard with the first unit, since the success or failure of your team depends more on your first unit.

Price is more than capable of running the second unit, when they’re on the floor, which won’t be that much of the time anyway. No need for panic. It’s not going to be that big of a deal for Price to be with the second unit. I’m sure Price can manage running things for like 15 minutes a game and everything won’t fall apart. Also, Lin starting doesn’t mean that he won’t also have time with the second unit. So there’s no need to worry that the second unit will fall apart without Lin.

As far as scoring goes, the Lakers have plenty of firepower in the second unit, even without Young. Guys like Randle and Clarkson are all about scoring. That’s what they live for. I know they’re rookies, but they’re pretty damn good rookies. So these two are more than capable of carrying the scoring load until young gets back. Also don’t forget about guys like Ryan Kelly and Xavier Henry, who will be back very soon. So this whole notion that Lin is so badly needed with the second unit, because he’s the ONLY one who can score is misguided. Besides, like I said, just because Lin starts, does not mean that he’ll have ZERO time with the second unit. With Lin starting, you get the best of both worlds. You can have him play with the second unit and he also has a much much better chance of finishing every single game, which is what you really need from Lin, since he excels when it matters the most.

So I’m sorry, but any argument that says Lin is needed with the second unit is misguided and disturbing. It’s disturbing, because it’s just another veiled attempt to marginalize Lin. It’s disturbing, because it’s just another example of how McHale has brainwashed the league into seeing Lin as only a back-up point guard. Well-meaning people may not realize this, but there is a history of Lin suddenly being relegated to the second unit. And it all has to do with McHale’s irrational benching of Lin, which ended up hurting the Rockets in the end, because Lin wasn’t on the court as much as he should have been and Lin ended up not finishing a lot of games. Again, starters generally play the most minutes and finish games. If you want Lin to play the most minutes and finish games, you want him to start.

In Houston, some of the very same reasons have been given to bench Lin. And the end result is that Lin played fewer minutes, didn’t close a number of games, had less impact than he would have if he had started, and is seen as losing his starting spot to Patrick Fucking Beverley. The disturbing thing is that these same reasons are used by well-meaning people and Lin-Haters alike, and, although they may have different intentions, they both end up serving the same end goal, which is to marginalize Lin, because he’s an Asian American baller who doesn’t quite belong with the starting lineup.

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  • Nhawj

    Powerful and well written!

    • Thank you very much, Nhawj. I’m getting more and more pissed off as it’s looking more and more like the same thing is happening in LA as in Houston with respect to Lin not starting. Don’t get me wrong, he is in a much better place, but this it angers me to see the same line of reasoning for not starting Lin and I wish I had a bigger megaphone to express why this line of reasoning is misguided and wrong.

      • Steppen

        Can’t agree more with you on this, Andy!
        Yes, there are many well meaning Lin-fans that said they don’t mind if Lin starts or not, etc..
        I’ve been on some sites voicing the same thoughts that you have stated here. =)
        I mean, don’t talk Dragic – let’s say it’s someone like Isaiah Thomas of the Kings, if he’s on this Lakers team – He IS definitely Starting Over Price (people talking about disrespecting Nash, Price, uh, well…. how about Lin, just freaking…)
        Nash has nothing left to prove – All-Star, MVP, future Hall-of-Famer. You are not disrespecting him if he’s comes off the bench. Make him mentor the younger guards. He’s not in his 30’s and cannot play to his peak – where’s the disrespects? what’s the disrespects? It Is the truth.
        No matter what, … it’s definitely not going to be H-Town and McFail’s experiment all over again. Coach Scott is not McFail. Kobe is not Harden. So, I’m not too worry at this point. If they don’t start Lin and don’t win games then they have to answer not to you and me but to the Lakers organization and the whole world!
        Keep up the great works!

  • Great great great article. I cannot agree more.

    • Thank you, Andi Chang! I appreciate it.

  • MrPingPong

    “Start your best players” is too much of a radical thought, Philosopher! On top of that, one of them looks too much like that Adidas employee Wang Wei-Chih!


    Joking aside, great essay as usual, Philosopher!

    • Ha ha. Thanks, MrPingPong, as usual.

  • Hank

    Well said! And I’m glad you wrote this article. The other misguided notion is that Lin will automatically run the offense when he subs in the game. We saw in Houston that it wasn’t the case, with Harden playing the entire first quarter and even though Jlin subbed in around the 9 minute mark, Harden still dominated the ball and ran the offense.

    Having Jlin on the bench because only he can help run the 2nd unit might make sense if the Lakers substituted all five players off at once like how they do line changes in hockey, but that’s not the case. Anyone in their right mind would want their best five players starting, playing the most minutes, and finishing the game.

    If Scott sees Jlin as the best PG on the team, and I’m not entirely convinced he thinks that, Lin should start and play with both the starters and the second unit. I also get the sense that Scott sees Lin as 3rd on the PG depth chart behind a healthy Nash and Ronnie Price. I hope that’s not the case, but with price continuing to practice with the starters, having started the last game, and with Scott’s comments about resting Price in the 4th quarter of last nights game, it looks more and more like Lin will be unfairly and illogically relegated to the bench. If the Lakers are to be competitive this year, Scott should decisively make Jlin the starter and have him practice with the rest of the starters and not continue with the “we’ll see what happens” strategy.

    • Thank you Hank. Really appreciate it.

      One thing I have more confidence in is that Lin will run the offense when he’s on the floor. I wasn’t so sure early on, but in the last couple of games, Lin has been the floor general when he was on the court, even with Kobe. So I’m not as concerned about that. In the early games, I think Kobe and Lin were still feeling each other out and Lin deferred to Kobe. But in the recent games, Kobe let Lin run the offense. So that was great to see, which is another reason why Lin starting is a no brainer. Kobe needs and wants someone else to run the offense.

      I also am not sure if Scott sees Lin as the best PG on the team. I’m beginning to see Scott as another Lin doubter, just not as bad as McHale. But it’s still early, so I’ll withhold judgement. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. But his recent comments about Lin are quite concerning, which I discussed in a previous article. Yeah, I agree that the “we’ll see what happens” strategy is a detrimental one. Players need to clearly understand their roles on the team. And it’s the coach’s job to define it. Again, I’m not sure exactly what Scott meant by his comments, so, again, I’ll withhold judgement for now.

  • Dr. Gary Teng

    Breaking News: Nash will be out the entire season.

    I personally believe that Scott will always start Lin as long as Lin stays healthy. So let us pray for his health.

    • I heard this news being on Twitter. Thanks for sharing!

      Yep, lets hope so. I also had confidence Scott will start Lin, but doubting it more and more as time goes by. We’ll see.

  • jeff

    Nash is out of the season indefinitely folks. So it’s just Price vs Lin. Let’s see who gets to play more minutes.

    • Chirico

      One thing is certain.

      Price stars = high chance of loss
      Lin starts = high chance of winning

      Proof – last two years of Houston rockets records.

      One thing that I want to add is : any argument about Lin needs to prove this and that etc. is pointless and disturbing.

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  • Chirico

    Another well written article. Next week will be very exciting to see!

    Lakers frenchize gave Scotts 3 years. I will give him 3 weeks max as a Lin fan.

    • Thanks, Chirico! 3 weeks sounds good to me. Ha ha.

      • Chirico

        No problem , philosopher. Have a grear weekend and im looking forwars to read you analysis next week after Lakers vs Rockets game!

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