Jeremy Lin has played two games since returning from a hamstring injury and has looked good in both. In his first game against Houston Rockets he approached a double-double, finishing with 10 points and seven assists. Against Orlando Magic on Friday, Lin looked like his old self after finishing with 17 points on 7 of 13 shooting from the floor to go with his three rebounds and three assists.
He is slowly getting back into the swing of things, given his minutes restrictions and getting his groove back on the court, but a closer looks reveals something very interesting; his success shooting the ball isn’t coming from Kenny Atkinson’s motion offense but instead out of the pick and roll and Lin creating shots for himself. Lin’s assists come out of Atkinson’s system, but when it comes to calling his own number, Lin is relying heavily on the pick and roll.
Against Houston, Lin played 20 minutes and took only eight shots. It was clear he was focused on running the offense and getting everyone else involved first, given his eight assists, but he took smart shots against his former coach and team. Of his four makes, three came out of the pick and roll and the other came in transition. His four misses included two attempts out of the pick and roll to go with a missed three and a missed jumper.
On Friday against the Magic, Lin’s affair with the PnR continued. He took 13 shots, hitting on seven of them. Of his seven makes, three came out of the PnR and the rest were him creating his own shot. He had six misses and of the six, three were out of the PnR and the rest were wild shots. He didn’t even attempt a shot within the flow of the motion offense in this game. He was much more aggressive and was looking to capitalize on some mismatches.
The high number of shots outside of Atkinson’s game plan can mean several different things. One reason behind the shift could be Atkinson wanting to get Lin back to his old self as soon as possible. Lin has been and always will be most comfortable running the PnR. Brook Lopez is easily a top five PnR big in the league when healthy, so it makes sense for Atkinson to tap the Brook-Lin connection to get Lin back into the swing of things following a prolonged injury.
If this is the plan, it is working. Lin has looked incredible so far, both facilitating and scoring when needed. He looks like he hasn’t missed a beat and almost in mid-season form instead of a player that missed a good portion of the season with a major injury.
The other possibility is that we are getting a look at the new Nets with Lin at the helm. It was long speculated during preseason, following Atkinson’s motion-only approach, that he would eventually move away from motion slightly and run some PnR sets with the incredible Brook-Lin tandem. Lin’s early season injury and a lack of an experienced point guard for most of the season prevented Atkinson from making this move but now that Lin is back, healthy, and the team is comfortable with the system maybe the PnR becomes more of a staple in the offense.
It is clear that Brooklyn is going to need to play to its strengths if it is going to win games down the stretch. Lin is an incredible facilitator for Atkinson’s motion offense. He is so smart and is in tune with Atkinson in ways that most coaches and point guards are not. Lin is an extension of Atkinson on the court and is the composed presence that is needed on this team. For all he brings as a passer, he is extremely dangerous and effective as a scorer out of the PnR. If the team can keep the pace and flow on offense that Atkinson has brought in while also playing to Lin and Lopez’s biggest strength, this team could start to turn the corner towards a rebuilding team to one one the cusp of being in the playoff conversation.
Jeremy Lin has been sorely missed in his absence. Whether the heavy PnR action is a way to jumpstart his comeback or a look at what is to come, it is refreshing to see. His presence is very calming to this team and the fans. As the Nets look to take on a tough stretch of opponents in Toronto, Golden State, Cleveland, and Charlotte this game plan should come in handy. Regardless, Lin’s impact will be felt in every game from here on out as the team finally has a true point guard at the helm.