It’s clear Jeremy Lin is in a much better place with the Hornets and Coach Cliff. But, once again, we have the same tired arguments about whether or not to start Jeremy Lin. And this season, it appears that a lot more Lin fans have gotten on board with this notion that it makes sense to keep Lin with the second unit, because he’s needed there. I’m not sure if it’s just because Lin fans have been so beaten down that we’re just so happy he’s finally in a good place so we’re willing to just go along with anything at this point. But let me attempt to explain why arguments that Jeremy Lin is needed with the second unit, although well-meaning, is STILL misguided.
I completely understand the realities of the arguments for Lin being needed with the second unit. The reality is, Lin has a history of coming off the bench and he comes to the Hornets with bench-player stats, because of limited minutes and lack of opportunity, etc. I don’t care if you’re Lebron James, if you’re given bench minutes and bench opportunities, you’re not going to produce star stats. It’s just simple math. So at the moment, because of Lin’s stats, he straddles the line between a starter and a sixth man. So it seems reasonable to make arguments that Lin should just be a sixth man for the Hornets, since the second unit needs him to run the show.
But if you’re someone who has followed Jeremy Lin very closely (I’ve been following him and writing on this blog about him since 2012 right at the start of Linsanity) and you’re someone who can dig a little deeper and not just look at the surface of things, then the notion of keeping Lin with the second unit is actually quite absurd. Let me see if I can explain.
Lin has vastly improved his game and matured from the days of Linsanity when he put up superstar numbers. That alone should be a wake-up call. But let me lay this out for you a little more. Lin is much more skilled in all aspects of the game including defense, he is able to play at a lot of different speeds, and he now has a deadly jumper (which is the latest and greatest improvement I’ve seen). Because Lin is looking to shoot the ball (which is a new thing), he now has so many unique weapons to beat you. Weapons that he didn’t have during Linsanity. I remember during Linsanity, his shot did not look very good. You combine someone with very high skill level with Lin’s craftiness and creativity, as well as high basketball IQ and you got yourself a bonafide NBA star.
I know others may think I’m just being a delusional Lin fan, but I do believe objectively that Lin has all the attributes to be an NBA star, it’s just that he hasn’t had the opportunity. But Lin is not just any ordinary star, he’s a star who is also integral to winning games, because of his unselfishness.
I understand how others who haven’t followed Lin closely can make the argument that Lin is needed with the second unit. But for those who closely follow Lin and truly believe that Linsanity is not a fluke (and to think Lin is even way better now), then there are no good arguments to be made for not starting Lin–especially since Lin is a star who helps win games. Because no matter what, if you’re a star on a team, you’re needed in the starting lineup. Sure, the second unit would LOVE to have you, but that is a luxury that a team cannot afford. Teams need their stars in the starting lineup! There are only a few very very rare exceptions, if any, to this rule. So this is one of MANY reasons why arguments about not starting Lin is misguided, even if they’re made with good intentions.
It’s a little odd to me that it appears a lot of Lin fans are okay with this argument that Lin is needed with the second unit on THIS Hornets squad, because those very same people making this argument are, at the same time, saying that the Hornets’s second unit is very deep. Now, they may very well be including Lin in the second unit when they say the second unit is very deep. But I think with this Hornets team, there are actually even more good reasons to be made for starting Lin. For one, this Hornets team is pretty deep even without Lin. And Brian Roberts is looking very much like a capable back up point guard. So why do we need Lin to be a back up shooting guard? Also, if you start Lamb, then, according to Coach Cliff, that causes a lot of guys to have to play out of their natural positions. So there are actually good logistical reasons why Lin needs to start for the Hornets. So it’s odd that it appears a lot of Lin fans seem to be even more okay with Lin coming off the bench for the Hornets than in the past, when it probably makes even less sense in THIS case than in the past. My guess is just that Lin is in a good situation and we are all just feeling good about it and are just sort of swept away by the good vibes so we’re more willing to accept anything. I don’t know.
People often make lots of arguments about why Lin is needed with the second unit on the Hornets, but how about this idea that Lin is needed with the first unit? I mean, it’s not like the Hornets’s starting lineup is full of superstars that we don’t have room for another star, right? The Hornets starting unit is actually pretty average talent-wise, individually. The difference maker is how they play as a unit and we all know that there’s probably not too many players out there who can bring a team together like Jeremy Lin. I mean, he proved it during Linsanity when he got a bunch of guys who he hadn’t even had one practice with to sing together in unison on the court. Imagine what Lin can do to this group of guys who are more talented than the squad he had during Linsanity?
Also, you want your best guys to go up against the other team’s best guys. So if you truly believe that Lin is a star, then it is absurd NOT to have Lin in the starting lineup. For example, if Lin hadn’t been in the starting lineup to stop the Clippers in today’s game, this game could have very well turned out differently, because the Clippers are a very talented team that was out for blood. But Lin’s 10 points at the open (which were ALL of the Hornets points), matched what the Clippers did as a team. And that helped steady things, otherwise this game could have gone in a different direction. Momentum is very important in sports, so if you don’t have Lin in the starting lineup, you may be okay with average teams, but you are going to have to battle from behind if you go up against very good teams. So if the Hornets want to make noise in the playoffs, they’ll have to win games against very good teams and, for that, they need Lin in the starting lineup.
To illustrate why Lin is needed with the starting unit, all you have to do is look at these two Clippers games. In Game 1 (Clippers WITHOUT Chris Paul), the Hornets’s starting unit didn’t have flow. It was the second unit that won the game and looked good. This is because Lin was in the second unit. But in Game 2 (Clippers WITH Chris Paul), the Hornets’s starting unit had flow and looked good. This is because Lin was starting. The bottom line is Jeremy Lin just makes any four guys on the floor better, so wouldn’t it be more beneficial to Hornets for Lin to help make the first unit even better?
These are some of the more complicated reasons why it’s absurd not to start Jeremy Lin. But the most obvious one to me is that the bottom line is that starters get the most minutes. This is just the way it goes. If your’re coming off the bench, I don’t care how great you are, it’s very very difficult to break the 30-minute barrier. James Harden did that in only his THIRD season with OKC, where he averaged around 31 minutes. But in his second season with OKC, he only averaged around 26 minutes coming off the bench. So if you truly believe that the more time Lin is on the floor the better it is for the Hornets’s chances of winning, then you want Lin to start. It can’t be more simple than that.
And the thing is, the difference between Lin starting and Lin NOT starting this season with the Hornets is DRASTIC. Because if Lin starts, he is likely to get THE MOST minutes of anyone on the team. This is because of Lin’s versatility, so Cliff will want to play him quite a bit with the second unit, even if he chooses to start Lin. We are talking 38+ minutes potentially. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not lobbying for Lin to play 38+ minutes (although I think that would be fine), I’m just trying to illustrate the potential significant difference between starting and coming off the bench in THIS situation. But if Lin plays back up he’ll likely get around 28 minutes or so. So it baffles me when I hear some Lin fans say that it doesn’t matter to them if Lin starts or not–especially in this situation particular situation. Because there is a big difference between starting and not starting here.
The other thing that I think some Lin fans may not fully realize on a deep level is that Lin as a shooting guard under Cliff is a totally different situation than Lin playing shooting guard in Houston. Sure, Lin fans all understand that Lin is in a very good situation and is in a much better place. But I think some of us still have an allergic reaction to this notion of Lin playing “shooting guard”, because of our PTSD from our McFale days. A lot of players actually love playing the shooting guard position. It’s no coincidence that Jordan and Kobe are both shooting guards. It’s the position that really allows you to shine, because you’re dependent on to score the ball. And whether or not you like it, scoring is still the biggest measure of success in the NBA for most people.
Because of this, I’m perfectly happy for Lin to play shooting guard if that’s what he has to do to get in the starting lineup. I know a lot of Lin fans want to keep him with the second unit, because that way, Lin will get to be the primary ball handler. But as a ball handler, you have the responsibility of making sure everyone gets their touches. You have to think a little more. I think Lin feels even more free as a shooting guard, because that’s the position you’re really given free rein to score. As a shooting guard, if you have a shot, it’s your job to take it. Also, Cliff is not having Lin just stand in the corner, he is actually running plays for Lin at shooting guard. So Lin is a TRUE shooting guard, not just a shooting guard in name only so he can be tucked in a corner so as to not get in the way of a superstar. Sure, I would ideally want Lin to be used as a combo guard with Walker and I want Lin to share ball-handling duties, ideally. But to me, more minutes EASILY trumps EVERYTHING ELSE. If you’re a great basketball player, more minutes takes care of EVERYTHING.
One of the complaints about Lin the past several seasons is that he’s inconsistent. That complaint is misguided, because they’re measuring Lin against players who get consistent big minutes. But if you measure Lin against players who get inconsistent minutes like he has been, then you’ll see that Lin has actually done very well. More minutes will take care of any seemingly inconsistent issues. This is one of the biggest reasons why superstars seem to produce so consistently. It’s because they have the minutes that allow them to weather any mini slumps they have throughout the course of any given game. There are plenty of instances when a superstar, like Kobe would go 0 for 6 shooting and end up with something like 10 for 20 at the end of the game, because they have the minutes to stay in the game and improve their stats.
Anyway, there are still plenty of other reasons that I haven’t even touched on about why Lin should be starting. But I hope I’ve helped highlight at least some of the reasons for you. Let me know what you think!