Friday, July 11, 2014
Melo opens door for Lin again
By Dave McMenamin
It was an injury to Carmelo Anthony that led to Jeremy Lin's meteoric rise to basketball relevance in New York more than two years ago. Now it appears that indecision on Anthony's part could lead to Lin trying to recapture the magic in Los Angeles.
The Lakers still hadn't heard any official word from Anthony on Friday, according to a league source, when they pulled the trigger on a trade with the Houston Rockets to acquire Lin and Houston's 2015 first-round pick in exchange for cash considerations and the rights to an undisclosed player stashed overseas.
In addition to providing consistency at point guard, one of Jeremy Lin's biggest assets is his ability to drive to the basket and convert.
While Lin hardly has the reputation now he had back in February 2012 when "Linsanity" reached its height of euphoria thanks to him dropping 38 points on the Lakers of all teams during a Friday night game at Madison Square Garden, it’s not as if he's some bum either.
There's no denying that the last we saw of him on the court, Lin struggled. Lin shot just 21.7 percent on 3-pointers in Houston's first-round playoff loss to Portland and was particularly ineffective early in the series, scoring five points on 1-for-5 shooting in Game 2 and four points on 1-for-6 shooting in Game 4 as the Rockets fell behind 3-1 before eventually losing in six games.
But that rough series, combined with the Rockets' preference for Patrick Beverly at the point, ended up clouding the player that Lin really is today.
The fact is, he's a better player than when he was setting the world on fire during that streak with the Knicks. Lin may have averaged fewer points (12.5 compared to 14.6) and assists (4.1 compared to 6.2) last season than he did when he was in New York, but he's more efficient (35.8 percent from 3, up from 32.0 percent, while his attempts have gone from 2.1 to 3.2 per game), more reliable (82.3 percent from the foul line, up from 79.8) and also more in control (2.5 turnovers per game, down from 3.6).
At 6 feet 3, 200 pounds, Lin is a bigger point guard than most think, which perhaps has something to do with his durability. Lin played in 71 games last season and all 82 games the season before that. Having a stable point guard would certainly be a welcome addition for the Lakers after Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar all missed so many games because of injuries in the last two seasons.
Lin also has one elite skill that puts him in the company of Friday's biggest news maker, LeBron James. Lin shot 57.9 percent off drives last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, second in the league last season behind only James (63.8 percent) among players who averaged at least seven drives to the basket per game.
While Lin's $15 million salary for 2014-15 might not seem commensurate with what he brings to the court, his cap figure is only $8.3 million, which left L.A. with the necessary cap room to retain Nick Young ($21.5 million over four years) and Jordan Hill ($18 million over two years) on Friday.
Is Lin, Young and Hill as good of a combination of the Lakers' preferred Plan A route of Anthony and Pau Gasol next season? Of course not.
But could it be better for 2015-16 and beyond? Maybe. Lin is only 25 and if he makes it work with the Lakers next season, could find a home for the next several years in L.A.
Getting that first-round pick from Houston is no small feat, either. The Lakers traded their 2015 first rounder to Phoenix as part of the Nash deal. Getting another good, inexpensive young piece in the draft to grow alongside Julius Randle for years to come is just a smart move in terms of the business of basketball.
And while L.A. overpaid for Hill, the second year is a team option, so they can cut ties if they choose next summer if it looks as if they'll need that money to go after Kevin Love or another big fish out there.
Though it will hurt to see Gasol go, he just turned 34 and has a history of knee and foot troubles, so maybe avoiding giving him a multi-year extension will turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
Yes, Anthony paved the way for Lin to step into the spotlight once again.
The Lakers didn't get the top-tier star they were hoping for, but ended up with Lin who has an extremely high international appeal, and Young, an L.A. native who was literally built for this town.
It's not ideal, but it's not disastrous, considering all the future flexibility the Lakers were able to maintain.
Coincidentally, the Rockets were interested in Anthony too and tried to recruit the high-scoring small forward by posting images of Anthony wearing a red Rockets No. 7 uniform (Lin's number) when he came to town.
Also coincidentally, the Lakers might have been motivated in part to cut ties with coach Mike D'Antoni in April -- Lin and Anthony's old coach with the Knicks -- before they went after Anthony this summer because their time together what somewhat rocky.
Well, only one of the three are in L.A. now.
And for Lin's sake, let's just hope his transition from Broadway to Hollywood includes a little more luck and positive results than there were for D'Antoni when he made a similar leap.