Jeremy Lin has found a new home. The point guard will be signing a two-year deal with the Charlotte Hornets, his fifth NBA team in six seasons, worth $4.3 million with the team’s biannual exception, according to reports by ESPN.
Lin announced the signing by posting the Hornets logo on his Instagram account Wednesday night, which he then followed up with a picture of him in a number seven Hornets jersey. On his Facebook page, Lin wrote a post explaining part of the logic behind the decision, saying, “I wanted to be on a team where I would be able to play freely and truly play the game I love with joy again. After a LOT of prayer and long discussions with family and friends, I wanted to personally let you guys know I’ll be joining the Charlotte Hornets.”
Lin spent the last season with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was traded to the team after two years with the Houston Rockets to play out the last year of this three-year, $25 million contract. The $4.3 million he will be getting from the Hornets is far from the price he commanded after he emerged as a star with the New York Knicks in the 2011-2012 season.
After the run of “Linsanity” that started when Lin scored 25 points against the New Jersey Nets on Feb. 4, 2012, expectations were high for Lin. In the 26-game run that began that night, Lin averaged 18.5 points per game and 7.7 assists per game, and the Knicks went 16-10. Although Lin suffered a meniscus tear in his left knee and did not play after March 24, the Knicks remained revitalized and finished 36-30 after starting 8-15 before February 4. They lost to the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs but won their first playoff game since 2001.
The run was so successful that many did not know Lin’s true value; 26 games was a small sample size, and he had not really had many meaningful games before then. A New York Times article entitled, “Knicks Know Lin’s Price, but Value? Not Exactly,” summarized the confusion, saying, “Lin is probably not a top-10 point guard, but could he be in the top 15? Top 20? Or in the bottom 10? Even the true believers are not sure.”
In the three seasons since his time with the Knicks, it is apparent Lin’s $25 million contract overvalued his ability, and it is much more likely he will continue his career as a solid player off the bench. The Hornets already have a starting point guard in Kemba Walker, who averaged 18.3 points per game and 5.4 assists per game in his fourth season in 2014-2015, and Lin will most likely serve as his primary backup.
It will be interesting to see how Lin’s time with the Hornets plays out because he will finally be joining a team where his role is more defined and the expectations are not that high.
Although Lin started all 82 games for the Rockets in 2012-2013 and averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists, the transition was not smooth. The Rockets acquired Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden in a trade before the season, and Harden served as the focal point of the offense. He often handled the ball and ran plays, but Lin’s success in New York emerged from being the primary ball handler. He was not able to adapt his play as well as he should have in the beginning of the season, telling Marc Berman of the New York Post, “I’m not doing close to what I’m capable of doing.”
He lost the primary starting job to Patrick Beverly the following season, only starting 33 games, and was traded in the offseason to the Lakers. He initially served as the starting point guard in the Lakers’ first 20 games, but a 5-15 record to start the season led coach Byron Scott to move him to the bench. He finished the season averaging 11.2 points per game and 4.6 assists, but he only started 10 more games throughout the season and played an average of 25.8 minutes per game, which was down from 32.2 minutes in his first year with the Rockets.
With muted expectations and the opportunity to sign with a team that had three seasons to know his true value and what role he could play, Jeremy Lin will hopefully be able to contribute much more consistently and productively for the Hornets than in his past two seasons in their quest to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
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