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Monday, July 19, 2010
Lakers interested in Jeremy Lin?

By Andy Kamenetzky

Our man Dave McMenamin may not know his "Machine Gun" from his "Rerun," but he does know how to track down information. And according to the ESPNLA.com scribe, the Lakers could be on the verge of offering undrafted Harvard guard Jeremy Lin to a contract. At 6'3" and 200 pounds, the Cali product -- Palo Alto High, where he won a state championship -- built quite the buzz while playing for the Dallas Mavericks' Summer Pro League team in Vegas. (In particular, after a showdown with number 1 overall pick John Wall largely went Lin's way.)

Lin has already traveled an interesting basketball road, having wound up a member of the Crimson after his successful high school career elicited no D-1 scholarship offers. On the court, he made the All-Ivy League First Team twice. Off the court, he was editor of the school paper (although presumably kept his nose out of the sports section, as it would be a conflict of interest). This would be yet another noteworthy twist, should he end up part of the Laker roster. While there are steps still in need of walking before we reach this point, here are a few quick thoughts on Lin getting offered a contract, should he and the Lakers actually reach an agreement:

- If the contract isn't fully guaranteed, Lin may be nothing more than a training camp body looking to make his bones. But if the money is secure, I think it sends a potential signal about the roster's direction. McMenamin mentioned Lin as a potential "backup" to Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher. My guess is he'd be far back. I'd be stunned if the front office already has Lin penciled into the rotation. All joking aside, the kid has acquitted himself nicely, but Smush Parker shredded the Summer League, so perspective must be maintained. I can't speak with absolute certainty about Lin's readiness for a steady role, but even picturing such a scenario feels like a cart considerably ahead of the horse.



Having said this, I'd also be very surprised if the Lakers carried six guards (including Lin), particularly with the roster lacking a true backup center as currently constructed. Thus, if Lin gets a guaranteed deal, I'm guessing Shannon Brown won't be around next season. His 2010 minutes would in turn go to Sasha Vujacic, who slowly began working his way back into the rotation a bit as the playoffs wrapped up.

If this scenario makes fans nervous, I don't blame them. Sasha's received a zillion chances to solidify his place over the last six seasons, and to put it kindly, he's been erratic. Quality flashes -- mostly in the 2007-2008 season -- have been typically outweighed by hyperactive mistakes and immaturity. Of course, Sasha is also typically obsessed with his minutes and role, so he might fare better without worrying about somebody infiltrating his turf. Plus, if 2008 proved anything, Sasha can perform in a contract year, which 2011 happens to be. Maybe lightning would strike twice.

All things being equal, I would take Shannon over Sasha. I think he is the player with more potential, a higher willingness to do what's asked, and provides a specific athletic spark largely missing from the rotation. But neither guy should make or break the three-peat odds when it's all said and done.

-In perusing Lin's Draft Express profile, his strengths are his overall feel for the game, playmaking and smarts. There are questions about his athleticism standing up to NBA competition, although I have heard it's better than some might expect.

- Lin's heritage is Taiwanese, and should he land on an NBA roster, there will undoubtedly get a lot of attention towards being the first American born Asian player since Rex Walters (and before Walters, Wat Misaka). But to me, it's equally interesting how Lin would be forging an NBA path as an Ivy Leaguer. Lin would be only the third player from Harvard, and the Basketball-reference.com list of players from Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton, Penn, and Yale is dominated by players from way back in the day. The recent pickings are pretty slim, mostly players who came and went in a flash.

This is obviously getting a little ahead of the story, but if Lin actually carved out a career, he wouldn't just be breaking a mold of ethnicity: He'd be breaking the mold of what we've come to expect out of players from this particular conference.

-Ivy schools don't award athletic scholarships, and for those who didn't get the memo, dummies don't get into Harvard. That Lin is a bright kid can't possibly be a downside when it comes to picking up the triangle.

-The Lakers had also given Penn's Ibrahim Jaaber a Vegas look before he took a deal with an Italian team. Eggheads apparently may apply.

-Should Lin make the team, Brian and I have decided we're going to call him "Harvard." Never "Jeremy." Just "Harvard." And with a bad Cape Cod accent. "Hah-vad." And with every mistake he makes, we're going to ask him how such a dumb kid got into Hah-vad. These are the kind of things you can do with an undrafted rookie. Hopefully, an undrafted rookie with a sense of humor.

If you're looking to learn more about Lin as a person, check out this profile by ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil.