UPDATE: Interesting info from ESPN’s J.A. Adande. He talked to Real Madrid coach Pablo Laso about Lin and learned the Warriors were shopping Lin overseas. My guess is so they can keep his rights while taking him off the books.
“We were offered Jeremy Lin, but we did not think much of him,” Laso said. “… Last summer, during the lockout, he was being shopped all around Europe. We were actually offered a lot of players, a lot of better players. Now, he has emerged with all the injuries New York is going through. He’s playing well. Maybe he has a strong year and then his level (of play) declines. You never know.”
The outbreak of Lin-sanity inevitably turns a spotlight to the Golden State Warriors’ front office, where the decision was made to waive Jeremy Lin.
Initially, the whispers from Warriors brass was that Lin’s captivating run was more a fluke, that inevitably Lin would come back to earth.
But as the Lin-credible run continues, the Knicks now having won six in a row with the Bay Area native at point guard, the reality is becoming more obvious. The Warriors missed on this one.
Even Warriors general manager Larry Riley admitted as much Wednesday.
“We can’t take the position he’s a fluke because he isn’t,” Riley said in a phone interview. “Jeremy Lin will have a 10-year career in this league. People are expecting him to fall off the face of the earth. That’s not going to happen. He’s going to have a long career.”
So the question begs: How did this happen? The refrain coming from the Warriors has been that cutting Lin was a necessary move. The Warriors’ play for restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan, which required clearing up more than $10 million of salary cap space, dictated that Lin’s salary of some $700,000 be axed from the payroll.
But with Lin blowing up, and the Warriors winding up not landing Jordan, it’s hard for fans not to second-guess the move.
“With a certain degree of reluctance, we did it anyway,” Riley said. “At the same time, I’m not going to duck the issue — we went after a center.”
Were there other options? Yes, but those options were either vetoed or not given much consideration. They team could’ve used its amnesty clause on center Andris Biedrins, who was making $9 million per over the next three years, which would have allowed the Warriors to keep the likes of Lin and swingman Reggie Williams, also let go in the bid for Jordan.
“It’s truly hard to ask your owner to amnesty $27 million when you have three years to figure out how to deal with it,” Riley said.
The team also could’ve renounced its rights to rookie guard Charles Jenkins, an option several team sources said head coach Mark Jackson was against. They team also could’ve offered Jordan $400,000 less.
“We had to get (the offer) up high enough to make it viable,” Riley said.
Clearly part of the problem was that keeping Lin was not a top priority. According to Riley, several in the organization wanted to keep Lin but weren’t willing to miss out on a chance to get the center they needed. Riley would not pinpoint who was the biggest advocate of moving Lin. But he said by the time Golden State made the decision, everyone was on board.
Riley did, however, point out the one person who was most against getting rid of Lin.
“Joe (Lacob) was the most reluctant,” Riley acknowledged. “He really didn’t want to do it, more than any of us. But we knew we had to. We needed a center and we felt we had a good chance to get one.”
Part of the problem, Riley admits, was not knowing what they had. They knew they had a nice player, but little more than that.
“I never saw Jeremy Lin as a starter on a winning team in the NBA,” Riley said. “I did see him as a backup. So he did exceed our expectations. He exceeded everyone’s expectations, except probably his own.”
With all their basketball minds — from Riley to Jerry West to Mark Jackson to assistant coach Mike Malone to player personnel director Travis Shlenk — how did nobody see it?
Jackson said he never got to see Lin play because Lin was pulled before the first drill. But, certainly, there was more NBA film on Lin than on rookie Charles Jenkins, who Jackson has vouched for since Day 1.
Perhaps that leads to another problem: Lin didn’t play enough as a rookie. Even with starting point guard Stephen Curry’s ankle issues, time for Lin was limited to 9.8 minutes in 29 appearances as a rookie.
Under then-coach Keith Smart, veteran guard Acie Law (currently playing in Greece) appeared in 40 games and averaged 15.8 minutes. Of the 17 players who donned a Warriors uniform last season, 15 totaled more minutes than Lin, including forward Al Thornton and swingman Rodney Carney.
“Let’s say that is 100 percent accurate,” Riley said. “He should have played more, probably. But you understand where Keith was coming from. He was trying to win games, trying to save his job. Had Jeremy Lin played more as a rookie, we would’ve known more. You can say that.”
Despite the recent developments, one could argue that Lin-sanity might never have been unleashed if Lin was still a Warrior. Riley said Lin likely wouldn’t get the minutes since Golden State’s backcourt is stocked with Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry.
Plus, the Warriors’ system arguably doesn’t fit Lin the way New York coach Mike D’Antoni’s system appears to fit Lin.
But Riley said one part of the equation can’t be overlooked: Lin improved.
“He got better,” Riley said. “Every month he was a little bit better player. He’s a picture of growth. The shortcomings he had, he worked on them and got better.”
In some ways, Riley and the Warriors could actually find some form of vindication in Lin.
After all, the Warriors are the ones who signed him. The Warriors also get some credit for developing Lin. They spent a year working with him. They sent him to the NBA Development League, where he got much-needed game experience.
“It wasn’t a publicity stunt,” Riley said. “We saw a young man with some real intelligence and skill, but we knew he needed to get better. We gave him a guaranteed contract that first year, which people thought was crazy.”
So Lin’s success is perhaps a nod to the Warriors’ ability to spot and develop talent. Of course, the problem here, in the mind of many Warriors fans, is the inability to keep that talent.
“We had a player,” Riley said. “We let him go to go after another player and we didn’t get him. We have to face up to that.”