It’s an all-too familiar feeling for Warriors, seeing one of their former players playing well elsewhere. But who would’ve ever thought former Warriors guard Jeremy Lin, the Bay Area’s own, would be doing this well this soon?
Saturday, he had 25 points and 7 assists in 35 minutes off the bench. Monday, he had 28 points and 8 assists in 45 minutes.
KNICKS COACH MIKE D’ANTONI: “I’m riding him like friggin’ Secretariat.”
Warriors fans are wondering: why again isn’t he a Warrior?
The technical answer: Golden State needed the cap space to make an offer to the Clippers’ then-restricted free agent center DeAndre Jordan. The drafting of Charles Jenkins, who’s more of a true point guard, made Lin a casualty of the Warriors effort at bolstering the roster.
Of course, the Clippers matched the Warriors’ offer to Jordan AND the Warriors lost Lin (who they tried to get back, but he was claimed off waivers by Houston).
The analysis answer: Warriors management, perhaps too focused on what he couldn’t do, didn’t value the strengths of Lin. He is excellent at getting to the basket. He has always been, and he proved (while with the Warriors) that he can get to the cup at the NBA level. He is deceptively quick, has good strength and has a knack for body contortion and maneuvering in air. That figures to make him really good at pick-and-rolls (as Tim Kawakami deftly pointed out), coming hard off screens with the ability to get all the way to the rim. The question for him was his decision making (usually always drives). Can he come off that P&R and make the sound, smart pass? In transition, can he do something other than take it for himself.
These last two games shows he’s gotten better in those areas.
GM LARRY RILEY: “He is a great young man and we are happy that he is getting an opportunity, which he has handled well.”
Lin also gets after it on defense, a reason Keith Smart liked to go to Lin from time to time. Lin’s also tough and humble. He’s easy to deal with and understands his role. Those things are vital when building a winning team.
Instead of milking what he can do, the hope for the Warriors seemed to be to develop him into something else. Certainly, the Warriors get some of the credit for Lin’s growth. He is MUCH better than he was when he arrived. But it became apparent, quickly, Lin would never be a true point guard and he was probably never going to be a good shooter. Plus, with Monta Ellis already on the roster, the Warriors didn’t need another shooting guard in point guard’s body, especially one that couldn’t shoot. So as much as they liked him, the reward of signing Jordan was worth the risk of losing Lin.
Far too early to determine whether that was a bad decision. But the reality is, you don’t go for 25+ in back-to-back games in the NBA if you don’t have something to work with. And get at least 7 assists. And come up with multiple clutch plays to get a win.
No doubt, Lin lovers will get carried away and call for him to be an All-Star reserve (they were already chanting M-V-P! M-V-P! at the Madison Square Garden). Truth is, he’s got some flaws in his game. (He turned the ball over 8 times Monday), But Lin is showing he can help a team. Maybe even the Warriors. Is he going to carry your team? No. But he can help you.
Warriors management wasn’t unanimous in deciding on Lin. Some thought they should keep him. Others thought it wasn’t a big deal if they lost him. Warriors fans seem to share in that split. Some are saying the Warriors blew it, others calling Lin a fluke benefiting from D’Antoni’s system.
Obviously, co-owner Joe Lacob was convinced of the latter, since he was the key reason Lin was here in the first place (Lacob saw a lot of Lin, who played against Kirk Lacob, now part of the Warriors’ basketball operations staff). The consensus wound up being waiving Lin and if they could sign him back, they would. The Rockets killed that. Then they waived him and the Knicks swooped in to pick up Lin.
JOE LACOB: “I and we are happy for Jeremy. Very happy. We have always thought he was very talented and could play in this league. Unfortunately, we had to take a chance by waiving him in order to make an aggressive play for DeAndre Jordan, a big man that could have addressed our greatest need. We sincerely hoped that he would not be claimed, but he was by Houston. When Houston let him go, we tried once again to get him back but the rules precluded it and the Knicks picked him up. Obviously, for Jeremy, at least, this has worked out very well. I am very happy for him and his family, who I have known since he was in high school.”
Did the Warriors’ blow it? Perhaps. But it’s not a colossal blown move. They could certainly find someone who brings what Lin brings. You could argue Nate Robinson is that guy. Or Charles Jenkins will be that guy. But whoever that guy is, chances are he won’t be able to captivate a city like Lin. And the Bay Area won’t be able to claim him as his own.
And to think they sent him packing for nothing for what turned out to be nothing makes it sting even more for many Warriors fans.