* I would like to thank @C_L_I_C_K a.k.a Click Click for his translation of the Jeremy Lin Adidas Interview into English
As Jeremy Lin fans are well aware by now, it is a big annual event when Lin travels abroad to Asia on a promotional tour and it is no different this year as he will spend a week in Taiwan (July 16-23) before leaving for China on July 24th. He certainly gets treated like a rock star when he visits Asia and one of his responsibilities during this time is to share his opinions in an interview for his sponsors as well as his many loyal fans. On July 16th when Lin first arrived in Taiwan, he had some interesting things to say about numerous topics about free agency and the upcoming season with the Brooklyn Nets in an interview which was sponsored by Adidas.
Lin’s Role In Free Agency and His Future
Going into the offseason, the discussion among many Nets fans was that the team is rebuilding with young players and that veterans, specifically Jeremy Lin, is not likely to return once he opts out after this coming season or even be traded for assets. While this is a possibility, Lin shared during the interview that Nets General Manager Sean Marks asked him for his input regarding certain players in free agency like Otto Porter and generally this type of access is usually only given to the best player on the team.
Brook Lopez is in Los Angeles now with the Lakers after the trade for D’Angelo Russell and at this time, Lin is the best player as well as the leader on the team. The Nets have talented young guys in D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert but they have yet to prove themselves in the NBA as established players and Lin should be a mentor for them both on and off the court.
Lin acknowledged that he feels old at 28 with the youth movement around him but he emphasized that he wants to perform well in his prime which he feels is another 3-4 years from now into his 30’s. Although the acquisition of Russell worried some Lin fans that he may be relegated to a sixth man role again, the team continues to show commitment in Lin as the starter along with Russell for the upcoming season.
Like most players, Lin’s ultimate goal is to be a champion. Lin doesn’t want to chase rings though and he wants to walk his own path to become a champion. Maybe if he gets older, he might change his stance on this, but for now, he wants to walk his own path and he hopes he can turn Brooklyn into a great team.
Although the prevailing thought from many Nets fans along with some bloggers and media is that Lin will either be traded or that he will opt and leave, I do not think that it is close to a certainty like some people make it out to be. It is reassuring to know that he seems to be up for the challenge of staying with the team until things turn around rather than leaving for a contender when he likely opts out after the upcoming season.
When Lin signed with the Nets last year in free agency, he bet on himself that he could take his game to the next level as a starting point guard and his goal is to be an all star which is what he said during the interview. He is coming off one of his best seasons despite the limited games and after years of being a bench player, it is important for him to play well over a full season as a starter to boost his confidence as well as his value around the league.
Besides betting on himself, Lin also bet on head coach Kenny Atkinson that he will improve the Nets into a winning team and it is clear that both individuals have shown loyalty to each other as they both signed on for a rebuild that could take years before the Nets could become a winning team again. A player who is not unselfish the way Lin is could have reacted differently to the Russell trade but Lin cares about winning so he has welcomed Russell with open arms. Lin said that they’re excited to play together and Lin feels that there shouldn’t be any problems between him and Russell. They have spoken about how they would play with each other and they trained together in Las Vegas when they were there to show support for the Nets Summer League team.
Sharing The Backcourt with Russell
Lin expressed that like his time pairing with Kemba Walker in the backcourt with the Charlotte Hornets, he believes that they should play very well together with Russell and he said they could take turns playing either the 1 or 2. The ball handling, as well as passing abilities of both players, will add a dimension that head coach Kenny Atkinson is looking for in the motion offense.
“That’s eventually the way we would love to [play], in a perfect world where multiple ball-handlers, different guys are bringing it up,” Atkinson said. “Hopefully we will see that in the regular season, that we are sharing the ball and it will not be one guy dominating the ball. That is not the way we want to play.” The way we play offense, it’s very conducive to both of them getting enough touches.”
Jeremy Lin stated that he wants to play off the ball more because he doesn’t want defenses to be all focused on him when he brings the ball up the court and if he can play more Shooting Guard, he can score more. Both Lin and Russell are capable of scoring 20+ points in any given game and whoever has the hot hand should play more as a shooting guard and look to score.
When Russell was inserted into the starting lineup as a Shooting Guard by Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton on 3/19/17 against the Cleveland Cavaliers at home, he scored a team high 40 points on 14-22 shooting and 7-12 from three.
After the game, Russell said “I feel like when you’re playing shooting guard, you’ve got to score the ball or make plays for your teammates. Playing the point guard, it’s harder to do that, be aggressive, try to score the ball every time, because you’ve got to make at least one pass. Whatever position they have me on the court, I’m a basketball player, not a point guard or a shooting guard.”
The Lakers experimented by playing Russell at shooting guard towards the end of last season and he started alongside Jordan Clarkson who played point guard. Russell has played more like a scorer so far in his two seasons and playing with Lin, he could stay aggressive while sharing the facilitating duties with Lin. They should take the pressure of each other due to their versatility and they are capable of being one of the best backcourts in the Eastern Conference. Perhaps both Marks and Atkinson had plans to utilize Russell as a shooting guard prior to the trade and they would like to see how he does with Lin before making a decision about the future.
Changes With The Offense
Lin said in the interview that he will be able to play even faster as the one or two and also play more pick and roll in the upcoming season. Running more PnR’s is a way to create offense especially now that Brook is gone. Since the Nets have lost 20 points per game from Brook, the players have to step up and provide additional scoring to pick up the slack. I expect the offense to be more perimeter based without Brook’s low post offense and much of the scoring will come from the backcourt with Lin and Russell.
The Nets played the fastest pace on offense last season but the team was not good in transition as they ranked 31st percentile in the league in terms of effectiveness and they will have to improve considerably to have a more efficient offense. The team ranked bottom third in Points Per Possession (1.08) and Field Goal Percentage (51.8) in transition. Not having Lin for over half the season due to his injuries was certainly a factor as he is an effective transition player with his speed, shooting, and passing ability. At the present time, the Nets roster consists of many Guards and I could easily see small ball lineups with 3 Guards playing together.
Without Brook, I predict better ball movement on offense and more players should touch the ball. Lin said he hopes to take a lot more shots including threes next season and his goal is to have a better three point shooting percentage. He had the highest three point percentage of his career last season at 37.2 and the most attempts per game at 4.3.
Lin will have the green light more than ever to shoot threes and it will be a big part of the offense again. As a team, Nets were a poor three point shooting team last season at 33.8% which was 26th in the league but with the trade for Russell (career 35 percent) and DeMarre Carroll (career 36 percent) in the offseason, I anticipate that the three point shooting will be improved.
Push For The Playoffs
Although the Nets finished last season with the worst record in the league, Jeremy Lin expressed that the goal is to make the playoffs and with 37-38 wins, he believes that the team could make it with a weaker Eastern Conference. In addition, Lin said that if he didn’t get injured last year, Nets could’ve made the playoffs which are fair to say. Nets finished a few games under .500 when Lin came back from his injury after the all star break but the team was terrible in the games that he missed. In the position that the Nets are in at this time, I agree with Lin that it is important to make the playoffs to show progress with a young and rebuilding team.
As the leader of the team, it is good to see that Jeremy Lin is setting a higher standard for himself as well as the team and he is no doubt setting the tone for the upcoming season individually as well as for his teammates. While answering questions from fans in an Instagram live video while in Taiwan, he was even more adamant when he said “We’re making the playoffs. I don’t care what anybody else says to me.” It is safe to say that if the Nets are going to make the playoffs, Lin will need to be healthy and have the best season of his career while elevating the play of his young teammates as a catalyst on both ends of the floor.
To have a possibility of making the playoffs, D’Angelo Russell and Caris Levert will also need to have breakout seasons because along with Jeremy Lin, they are the best players on the team. Unlike his situation with the Los Angeles Lakers, Russell will be given every opportunity to succeed and he has the support of management in Brooklyn which was not the case with the Lakers.
He should play with a chip on his shoulder to prove that the Lakers made a mistake and he has the potential to become a franchise player if he stays focused as a player and person with the Nets. LeVert is also full of potential after a promising rookie season and he will have a much bigger impact in the upcoming season as he appears to be healthy at this time. He could be the starter at the 3 again or back up Russell at the 2 and regardless of position, he will see an increase in minutes and become much more involved on offense.
The Nets want to play “position-less” basketball and the 3 best players are also the most versatile on the team which will give more flexibility to Atkinson as the head coach. They will need to score around 50 points combined per game and they will have to be the primary playmakers to lead a team that is deficient in talent.
The addition of DeMarre Carroll and Timofey Mozgov should help the defense and it remains to be seen if the Nets will improve on defense along with rebounding now since Brook was traded. Overall, Atkinson needs to hold players more accountable and I am more concerned about the defense because I feel that the offense will be good enough to win games.
The team should play with a lot of effort and grit just like last season but more wins are needed for the players to gain confidence and change the perception around the league. As he is known to do, I predict that Jeremy Lin will be the glue guy and as long as he is healthy, the Nets will be in contention for a playoff spot. Lin is a difference maker and I hope that we will get to enjoy him for a full season this time around.