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How will Jeremy Lin and Kobe Bryant fare in the same backcourt?
- Updated: August 31, 2014
When the Los Angeles Lakers made the move to acquire Jeremy Lin from the Houston Rockets this offseason, they made it with the knowledge that he would play a huge part in the team’s plans in the 2014-15 season.
These plans will likely entail Lin becoming the Lakers’ starting point guard due to Steve Nash‘s persistent health issues that have limited his time on the court over the past two years, especially last season where he only played in 15 games. In that role, Lin will be playing alongside Kobe Bryant, who will remain the focal point of the team’s offensive scheme.
That being said, the huge question that surrounds the Lakers will be how will both players play together in the same backcourt?
For starters, both Lin and Bryant must learn to adapt to each other’s playing styles on the court. Lin, as he described himself at his press conference in July, is a “0-100 type of player” meaning that he is an attacking point guard that uses a lot of dribble penetration to get to the rim. This was quite evident last season as he made 57.7 percent of his shots within five feet of the basket. The 26-year-old is also a decent three-point shooter (.358), but what is most important to his new team is that he is at his best when he is a primary ball handler like he was with the New York Knicks, and through his first season with the Rockets.
This may become an issue given that Bryant over the years has become Los Angeles’ primary ball handler, and has remained in the role even with the addition of Nash a few seasons ago. It is no secret that the 16-time All-Star desires to play the offense through himself first, but for the betterment of the team next season he must relinquish some of that duty to Lin.
It will be a slight change for Bryant, but this is not asking for him to completely get away from being a ball handler at all in the offense. This is an adjustment that will require him to allow Lin to be the primary ball handler in spots, and he can take over the responsibility when either the offense sputters or the team needs him to do so.
What also may help make this transition a little easier for Bryant is that he is coming off two serious injuries that forced him to miss all but six games last season. This will mean that the 36-year-old will be eased into the offense because of the unknown factor of what type of player he will be at this point in his career. During the early portion of the season as Bryant finds his way, Lin can assume the role as the primary ball handler even more so.
The beginning of the season will be an important time for Lin for many reasons, but one of the few that rises above the rest is the respect factor with Bryant. If he can prove early that he can excel in the role as the team’s starting point guard, it could go a long ways in earning Bryant’s trust in running the offense. The 18-year veteran has shown throughout his career that if he can trust someone he will continue to let them do what they can to help the team, because at the end of the day Bryant’s main and only concern is winning.
If Lin can find his niche on the team quickly, be it as the team’s primary ball handler and it helps them win games, Bryant will gladly adjust and do whatever else he can do to aid the cause. This points to a huge part of the pairing’s success falling on the trust level that Lin receives from Bryant. First and foremost he will have to prove that he can get the job done as the starting point guard, or his role as the primary ball handler will not be as clear cut.
What also may help this process is new head coach Byron Scott, who has a strong relationship with Bryant as one of his former teammates. Scott will have the ultimate say in how the offense is ran, which will likely be a mixture of the Princeton offense along with what he deems “traditional NBA sets.” The Princeton offense is one that is predicated on quick ball movement and motion, which means it will require a point guard to run the offense.
This offensive scheme includes multiple cuts to the rim, the use of a strong post player that is able to draw double-teams, and a reliance on outside shooting that will allow the team to effectively use kick-outs after drives to the rim. If Lin can execute Scott’s offensive game plan well, then all will fall in place accordingly as he will have the head coach’s backing to his role on the team.
The bottom line is that Scott has final say as head coach and his strong relationship with Bryant will certainly help him in running his offense. Scott has stated that he will give his players plenty of freedom within the offense, but it is detrimental to the team’s level of success he is not going to pull any punches even if it is Bryant who is causing it.
“I’m not going to shy away from that at all, because I have that much respect for him. I care about him that much. I’ve known him for 17 years, and I know what kind of player and person he is. He knows me as well. He knows he can come up to me and tell me anything, just like I can go to him and say, ‘Kobe, no, that’s not what we’re going to do. Let’s do it this way.’ I think because of the mutual respect we have, the relationship is going to get even stronger. I think Kobe respects my opinion and my experience in this game and in this league. I’ve been in this league for 30 plus years as a player and a coach. We feel the same way about this roster that we have. We know a lot of people aren’t going to give us a chance, but we feel we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”
All in all, Scott and Bryant are focused on doing what’s best for the team, and if that is Lin running the offense as the main ball handler, each will empower him with that responsibility. The success of the pairing of Lin and Bryant will be dependent on how Lin performs in that role, and if he can, the Lakers like Scott stated should “surprise a lot of people” next season.