It’s been awhile since we last checked in on Jeremy Lin and the Charlotte Hornets, who currently sit just half a game behind Miami for third place in the East. It’s been a masterful coaching job by Steve Clifford – he’s molded a ragtag group, led by the always explosive Kemba Walker, into one of the toughest squads in the league.
But it’s Kemba’s fellow backcourt mate who’s made a few waves lately. Right before the season started, we highlighted J. Lin as Charlotte’s “unsung hero,” a talented shot creator and ball-handler who could take tremendous pressure off Walker at the end of tight contests.
Even when Charlotte was competitive a couple years ago, they lacked a true creator who could make a play or find an avenue for a teammate once the action broke down. Though his usage rate is about the same as it was in LA last season, Jeremy is more aggressive and decisive while running the offense.
Over his last 3 (avg. 22 points & 4 boards), Lin has displayed some takeover ability, poise and toughness down the stretch, with his most impressive performance coming in a 23-point comeback v. the mighty San Antonio Spurs.
Lin scored 15 fourth-quarter points, including a late jumper with under a minute left and two game-clinching free throws to seal the deal. Not only did the W hold significance because it was San Antonio, it was an unofficial message to Coach Clifford that Lin should be Kemba’s (permanent) last-second running mate.
Now, Courtney Lee has played very well since arriving via trade last month and Nicolas Batum‘s versatility allows Clifford to slot him at any position and mix in more front court options when necessary.
That said, Lin is the right man for the job next to Kemba. Though injuries have forced Lin to play 30+ minutes the last two nights, nailing his “audition” could make way for an altered rotation come playoff time.
No one’s saying he needs to take every big shot or have the rock in every clutch situation (Kemba & Nic Batum have obviously earned priority) but an additional decision-maker will open up things once defenses clamp down in a 7-game series.
And yeah, Lin being no stranger to the spotlight won’t hurt at all either!