I don’t know about you all, but I’m am SHOCKED that the Hornets destroyed the Clippers (with Chris Paul). I expected the exact opposite to happen, due to the Clippers being out for blood and wanting revenge from being sort of embarrassed in game 1 and thinking that the Hornets may be complacent due to exceeding expectations so far and looking forward to just gong back home, etc. Boy, was I completely wrong and boy am I so happy to be wrong.
I have said that if the Hornets manage to win game 2 vs. Clippers, then that’s a big statement to me about just how talented and mentally tough this team is. But it’s more than just pure talent, it’s also because of the unselfishness and high-character caliber of this team, which is even more important than talent, to me. I mean, if you make it to the NBA, you’re talented enough. I think this Hornets team is very special as long as they continue to fight for one another and play unselfishly.
I haven’t been following the Clippers in preseason, so it could be that they’re just not gelling or taking it easy or something, since they haven’t been playing well in preseason. This doesn’t make too much sense, since their key unit has remained in tact. So because I haven’t been following them, the Clippers’s preseason struggle is a mystery to me, because on paper, the Clippers are stacked with talent. But I’ve always said that team ball is way more important than raw talent. And today’s game between the Hornets in which Hornets destroyed Clippers by 42 points with team ball is the epitome of this notion that team ball is more important than talent. This is something that Popovich understands deeply, but most in the league are still clueless about.
I didn’t actually get a chance to watch this game until late in the third quarter. So didn’t get to see Lin in action. Lin ended up playing only 16:32 minutes due to early foul trouble and the Hornets blowing out the Clippers. But in the limited time he was on the floor, Lin showed enough to wow the Chinese crowd, as well as Coach Clifford.
This was a very important game for Lin, because it is his first time starting with the Hornets. I was very concerned that it could look very ugly for the Hornets, causing Clifford to re-think starting Lin, but to my great relief Lin played exceptionally well. Even though I didn’t see the game, from what I heard, it’s pretty easy to conclude that this may have been Lin’s best performance as a Hornets, which is saying a lot, since he’s done very well so far with the Hornets. He scored all 10 of the Hornets’s first points and started the game with a 3-pointer no less (he also started the second half with a 3-pointer). Lin ended with 13 points on 5 of 7 shooting (3 of 3 from three-point range) with 1 assist and 5 rebounds. Lin played shooting guard in this game, so that’s probably why he only had 1 assist. Also, Lin only played 16:32 minutes.
Once again, the Hornets continue to play Linsanity ball (i.e., team ball). Six players scored in double-digits with 25 team assists. One of the things I really like seeing from the stat is that Big Al did great, scoring 17 points and played his best game of the preseason. This bodes well for Lin starting, because Big Al is a key piece and I was concerned that he was beginning to get lost in the shuffle now that the offense doesn’t just revolve around him. It’s important to keep Big Al happy so he doesn’t become disgruntled and disrupt the chemistry of the team. Also, from the stat sheet it looks like Roberts continues to play very well, which also bodes well for Jeremy Lin starting. Lamb did poorly and I hate to say this, but this also bodes well for Jeremy Lin starting. (I just say what I think is the truth and don’t try to sugar coat anything just to be politically correct or diplomatic. The truth is more important to me than politeness, so apologies if I offend anyone, because that’s not my intention. I’m just after the truth as I see it, is all.)
It seems that wherever Lin goes, records crumble. This 42-point thrashing is the largest margin of victory in franchise history in preseason. Prior to today’s game, their biggest margin of victory in preseason is only 25 points, which they achieved two times, most recently was on October 21, 2000 in Toronto. Also, the Hornets are 4-0 preseason after this victory, which is only the second time the Hornets have done this in franchise history. So something very special is brewing in Hornets land with Jeremy Lin and company.
Kemba Walker struggled in this game, scoring only 7 points in 25:23 minutes and shooting 1-9 from the field (1 of 4 from three-point). He did manage to get 4 assists. Walker had his worst performance of this preseason. Having not watched the game, I don’t know if Kemba’s struggle had anything to do with having Lin in the starting lineup. But from looking at the stats, it’s not like Walker didn’t get opportunities to score. So I think Walker may have just had an off night. We’ll see. I hope it’s not because of Lin, because like it or not, Walker is still the Hornets’s main guy (apparently, he has Jordan’s ear). So if Walker is unable to play with Lin, then that doesn’t bode well for Lin starting alongside Walker. Although Coach Cliff has shown that he does in fact possess a backbone, so I think if Cliff wants Lin to start, it’s gonna happen. It’s all up to Cliff.
I’m sure Cliff is still not 100% certain that he’ll start Lin, but after today’s performance, he’s definitely almost there. I think it’s pretty clear that Lin has all the skills to be a starter and, dare I say, a star in this league. It’s just a matter of fit at this point. I just hope Cliff realizes that more minutes for Lin = more wins for the Hornets. If Cliff realizes this, then he’ll realize that starting Lin is the right move for the Hornets.
I know a lot of Lin fans are okay with Lin being back up this season. As for me, I think it’s a big mistake not to start Lin for a number of reasons. Jeremy Lin has the skill set to play off ball very well now and he can also defend shooting guards probably better than point guards, since Lin does better defending bigger guys, as can be seen by this “highlight reel” I made of Lin’s defense:
I understand all the arguments about how Lin is needed to run the second unit, and how Lin can be the primary ball handler if he comes off the bench, etc. But to me the bottom line is that more minutes for Lin = more wins for the Hornets. And if Lin starts, he’ll likely get the MOST minutes of the team, due to his versatility and his need to help run the second unit. But if Lin is back up, he’ll likely get less than 28 minutes off the bench, due simply to the logistics of substitution. The simple fact is that it’s very very difficult to break the 30 minute mark off the bench. Harden managed to do it in his THIRD season with OKC, but in his second season, he only averaged around 26 minutes. Now that Lin has shown that he can be very effective playing off the ball, it would be a huge mistake to not start Lin, because not starting Lin means fewer minutes for Lin. Also, due to the logistics of substitutions, it’s more natural for starters to close out games. So Lin starting guarantees that he’ll be closing out games. That being said, I am confident that Lin will close out nearly all games even if he doesn’t start for the Hornets.
Ideally, Lin would be the starter and the primary ball handler, but at this point, I don’t think it’s realistic. I think at least for now, Walker is the primary ball handler, even though I think the team is better if Lin is the primary ball handler or at least they share ball handling duties 50/50. I just don’t think that’s realistic at this point. The thing is, Walker is probably going to benefit if Lin handles the ball more, because I think Walker is very much a willing scorer. I just don’t think Walker or maybe even coach Clifford realizes this at this point. Hope they get wise to it soon, because this team would be even more lethal if they see Walker and Lin as two combo guards, rather than seeing one as a PG and the other as a SG.
Aside from the Hornets winning more games if Lin starts, due to Lin getting more time on the floor, Lin DESERVES to start. I mean, Lin is one of the few guys who have the skill sets to be a starter and even a star in this league, yet everywhere he goes, he is somehow really really needed to run the second unit. I think the arguments for Lin running the second unit is less disturbing this season than it was last season with LA, but it still doesn’t sit well with me. Here you have a player that has the skills to be a star in this league (and I’m not just saying this because I’m a Lin fan), and you don’t want him to start?!
I really do think Lin is a star, because he has so many weapons–especially now. The biggest skill that Lin has improved on this off-season is his shooting. Now whenever I see Lin shoot, I’m confident that it’ll go in, whereas in the past, I’m hoping and praying it’ll go in. Lin’s shooting form looks smooth and there’s no hesitation. And, more importantly, he has confidence in his shot and is actually looking to shoot. I think Lin will have the best shooting of his career by far this season. And that’s a very scary thought, because now Lin can beat you in so many different ways. If you give him room and respect his driving ability, he’ll shoot the ball, if you crowd him, he’ll blow by you and score himself or make plays for others with one of the quickest first steps in the NBA. You add this to a very crafty/creative mind and a high basketball IQ and you have one of the most dangerous NBA players out there. The story with Lin, as all Lin fans know, is that he just hasn’t had the opportunity.
I don’t want to start any Lin vs. Walker stuff, but if everyone is honest with themselves and look past perceptions, they’ll realize that Lin definitely has a higher skill set than Walker. I mean, you don’t really have to dig deep to realize this–especially now that Lin looks like he has a very deadly jumper. If you agree that both Lin and walker are similar in terms of their ball handling and passing abilities, then it’s clear that Lin is objectively a better player because Lin is a much better shooter. Now, I have nothing against Walker and actually think he’s a really good guy from what I’ve seen. He also looks to be a good teammate, so far. I’m just stating what I think to be simple facts. So if we really look at this situation clearly without preconceived notions, then really Walker should be the one fighting for a starting spot. But, of course, this is not reality. The reality is that Jeremy Lin is always the one that ends up having to sacrifice and the crazy thing is that sacrificing Jeremy Lin is actually not for the betterment of the team. Sacrificing Jeremy Lin is to the detriment of the team. But the problem is that most people don’t understand this, because of their own preconceptions of Jeremy Lin.
Finally, if you’re a Lin fan, you want Lin to start, because this is the best chance he has of showing that he is an NBA star, because he’ll get the proper amount of minutes required to be an NBA star. It’s a miracle if you can get more than 32 minutes off the bench. I don’t think anyone has ever done this, but that’s just a guess. In order to be a star, you need way more than 33 minutes on the court. I think this season, Lin should be averaging way more than 33 minutes and that’s not going to happen if he’s coming off the bench. If Lin averages 35+ minutes this season, I have no doubt that he will average 18+ points (hard to predict assists since not sure how much he’ll handle the ball). And his point average could be into the 20s if he plays primarily as a shooting guard. So if you’re a Lin fan and you care about Lin succeeding, then you want him to start. If you think Lin can do just as well off the bench, then I’m sorry to say, but you’ve been duped.