I watched the game pre-recorded after already knowing the results, so it wasn’t as exciting for me as I’m sure it was for those who got a chance to watch the game live. I generally like to watch Lin’s games pre-recorded, so I can skip through the commercials, but I usually stay away from Twitter and such so i don’t know the results of the game ahead of time. But for the Cavs game, I was expecting the Hornets to lose, so I decided to look up the result to decide whether or not it was worth watching. I had no idea that Kemba was injured and that Lin got his first start as a Point Guard for the Hornets. Had I known that, I would have definitely watched the game without looking up the results beforehand.
Lin was named the player of the game, netting 24 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds. He also had 5 turnovers (some of these turnovers had to do with Lin’s teammates not used Lin’s passing style), which negated some of the assists. Lin got his points within the flow of the game, which is what a great point guard should do, since a point guard’s main role is to distribute the ball and run the offense. Lin’s 24 points came pretty quietly, except at the end of the game when he netted 6 points in two minutes or so to seal the game. Those six points were very noticeable, as Lin pretty much took over the game to ensure the Hornets get a win and stave off Lebron’s onslaught down the stretch.
So many things to talk about! First of all, pretty much whenever Lin has started this season, he’s been excellent. But this is the first game Lin got to start for the Hornets at point guard, so this was a special game for Lin’s time with the Hornets. Lin actually hasn’t been given an opportunity to start and the freedom to run the offense consistently as point guard since Linsanity. A lot of critics claim that Linsanity was just a fluke, but the only reason it appears to be a fluke is that Lin hasn’t had the same opportunities since Linsanity. Lin has been misused and underutilized ever since Linsanity (even when he was with the Knicks when Woodson took over) and that’s why he hasn’t been able to reproduce the same superstar stats. The simple fact is, a player’s performance is hugely dependent on how he is used by the coach. There are numerous examples of this. For example, Keven Love has regressed significantly ever since he joined the Cavs and is no longer utilized as the number one option on the team. Also, look at how completely mediocre Ty Lawson has been, playing alongside Ball-Hargen, compared to what Lin did.Ty Lawson is currently averaging only 6.5 points and 3.8 assists. By contrast, Lin averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists during his first season with the Rockets. Yet, most gave Lin hell and kept saying that Linsanity was a fluke, while blindly dismissing the fact that Lin was completely misused and playing alongside a ball-dominant guard in Houston. When you take into consideration how grossly Lin has been misused by his coaches, you’ll come to realize that Lin has been performing at a high level, given his circumstances. But, of course, most people are not very perceptive. And, unfortunately for Lin, NBA analysts, GMs. coaches, etc. are some of the least perceptive people I’ve observed.
It’s no coincidence that ever since Linsanity, Lin has put up superstar stats during pretty much every single instance in which he was allowed to play his game whenever the “superstar” on the team went down and Lin was given back his role of running the offense. For example, when Harden went down, Lin matched his career high of 38 against the Spurs. In fact, when Lin plays without Melo or Harden on the court, he averages 22 points, 8 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals. And, more importantly, Lin has pretty much won every single game he’s played without “superstars” on the court with him. So, basically, whenever Lin isn’t playing alongside a ball-dominant “superstar” he puts up superstar numbers and wins games. Last night’s defeat of the Cavs, the number one team in the East, was just another example of this. In other words, Lin is a player you can actually build around, because he is the rare type of star player that makes his teammates better and does things that are all about winning games, rather padding his own stats. The unfortunate thing is, because of their lack of perception and their disbelief that an undrafted Asian American from Harvard could be that good at basketball, GMs and coaches are oblivious to this and refuse to give Lin the keys to the offense to their detriment. They’d rather lose games then look “stupid” in front of their peers.
Because Kemba went down, the Hornets FINALLY got to see what happens when Lin is their starting point guard and the result was nothing short of spectacular: they snap the 5-game winning streak of the best team in the Eastern conference. They also end Lebron’s ridiculous personal 21-game winning streak against their franchise. So when Jeremy Lin starts at Point Guard for the Hornets, they end up accomplishing some amazing feats. Too bad politics won’t change much going forward, though. When Kemba returns, he’ll be the starting Point Guard and Lin will likely go back to being misused, as usual. My hope is that this game at least opens up Clifford’s eyes a little and get him to allow Lin to at least play Point Guard, which is a position Lin hasn’t played for a while now with the Hornets. I’m also hoping that Clifford will see that he can go to Lin at the end of the game and not just rely on iso-Kemba. We’ll see if these things happen.
For those who wonder why Lin sat so long in the fourth quarter, it’s because Lin is still playing injured and Clifford wants to give Lin as much rest as he can get away with. So that’s why Lin sat so long in the 4th quarter. I thought that’s a wise decision by Clifford. Lin has had to return prematurely from the same injury this entire season, because other key players on the team keep going down. As a result, Lin has been playing injured for months now. Despite playing injured, Lin still manages to have an impact. This is something that a lot of people don’t mention or don’t realize. Lin was actually playing injured last night and still managed to beat the best team in the East. That shows a lot of heart right there, which is another intangible that can’t be measured.
Without Kemba in the lineup, the Hornets played team ball, like they did in pre-season. This is what Linsanity is all about and this is what happens to your team when you let Jeremy Lin start at Point Guard and give him free reign to run the show. His unselfishness is contagious and this is something that’s not easy to measure, but is a huge aspect of Lin’s game and it’s what makes him a winner. When Lin is a big part of your team, your team ends up winning a lot of games. But this contagious aspect of Lin’s unselfish game is very difficult to measure, so GMs and coaches in the NBA miss this importance and that’s why they continue to misuse and under-utilize Jeremy Lin.
The Hornets played their best team ball that they’ve played in a very very long time. They had 26 assists as a team, which is excellent. The Cavs only had 16 team assists. Also, five players were in double-figures in scoring. This is what happens when you have a great point guard running the show, versus an under-sized shooting guard (i.e., Kemba Walker). If the Hornets want to win games and if they don’t care about politics, then Lin and Walker’s roles should be reversed. Lin should be the starting point guard for the Hornets and Kemba should be the one coming off the bench as a combo-guard or shooting guard. Of course, this is never going to happen, so the Hornets will never fulfill their highest potential as long as Kemba Walker remains on this team. If the Hornets management is perceptive, they will look to trade Walker and sign Lin to a long-term contract as their starting point guard of the future. Once they do this, then the Hornets will finally have a chance at fighting for the top spots in the East.
The other thing I noticed is that with Walker out of the lineup, Clifford actually does an excellent job of managing minutes of all the players. His substitutions made sense in this game, because he spread out the minutes and kept players fresh, rather than over-use Kemba and Batum and under-utilize his other players. So that’s another big intangible positive that results from Kemba not being a part of the Hornets. I don’t think it’s something that management notices, though.
To me, what makes Jeremy Lin a star is that he’s a complete player who’s integral to team ball and winning. It’s no coincidence that whenever Lin is allowed to play his game, his team usually ends up winning. Lin is one of the rare players who’s good at both ends of the floor. He’s one of the best PG defenders in the game and is also lethal on offense, because of this wide skill set. On top of this, Lin provides you with a lot of great intangibles that can’t be measured, such as his heart, his will to win (which makes him deadly down the stretch if he’s properly utilized), his high basketball IQ, his infectious team-ball spirit, his toughness (no one in the NBA gets more bloody noses than Lin), and his humbleness and willingness to sacrifice for the good of the team. For the sake of the Hornets, I hope they realize this sooner than later. For the sake of Jeremy Lin, I hope some other team out there realizes this if the Hornets don’t.