It has been a year of disappointment for the Los Angeles Lakers that has been full of plenty ups and downs.
This can be clearly exemplified through the play of Jeremy Lin in his first season with the team.
The 26-year-old had initially began the year as the Lakers’ starting point guard with Steve Nash declared out for the season due to ongoing back problems. Even with a significant role on the team, Lin struggled to find a good level of comfort and consistency due to a variety of reasons such as difficulty playing alongside Kobe Bryant.
His inconsistent play through the first two months of the season led to his demotion to the bench by head coach Byron Scott in early December. In 26 starts, Lin was averaging 11.6 points on 45 percent shooting with 5.0 assists in 29.6 minutes per game.
These numbers continued to decline on bench with 10.5 points and 4.5 assists in 23.5 minutes in 37 games played. Lin’s struggles persisted in his new role, however what also contributed to his problems have been his fluctuating minute load.
Nonetheless, his play in a Lakers’ uniform had failed to reach the expectations that he could recapture the level of production he had during his tenure with the New York Knicks. As the season progressed it appeared that he had seemingly fallen out of favor with Scott, who had elected to play rookie Jordan Clarkson and had at times given veteran guard Ronnie Price extended minutes at the expense of Lin.
That said, it appears that he may have finally found his comfort level and confidence in his game that he lacked for most of the season. Since the All-Star break, Lin has seen a rise in production across the board with averages of 15.5 points on 48 percent shooting, 5.6 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.8 steals in 28.3 minutes in eight games played.
This includes scoring in double figures in six games, notching six or more assists five times, and shooting 50 percent or better from the field on four occasions. He also scored a season-high 25 points during this stretch in the 118-111 overtime win over the Boston Celtics on Feb. 22.
There is no question that Lin is playing with a renewed confidence, but there are also some other key factors that have led to his increased production. For starters, the injury bug has certainly played a key role in this as the injuries to Bryant (out for season due to rotator cuff surgery), Price (season-ending elbow surgery), and Nick Young (persistent swelling in the left knee).
The absence of both Bryant and Young has opened up more scoring opportunities for Lin that have led to his uptick in aggressiveness on offense. The loss of Price has all but solidified a set role off the bench as the backup point guard. Since the All-Star break, he has played in at least 24 minutes per game, and has surpassed 30 minutes three times.
This will continue to be the case for Lin, especially with Scott stating that Young could be out for the next one to three weeks because of the continued swelling his left knee. This is also an important factor given that Scott appears to be locked into the idea of keeping Clarkson in the starting role for the remainder of the season.
What also brings credence to that decision is Clarkson’s steady improvement since being named the starter. The 22-year-old is averaging 14.4 points on 46 percent shooting from the field with 4.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds in 30.2 minutes in 18 games played. This includes reaching double-digit scoring 14 times, and recording at least four assists on 11 occasions.
He has also seen a rise in his production in March with 16.8 points, and 4.8 assists in four games played in the month. Clarkson is also coming off a career-high 25 points in 97-90 loss to the Memphis Grizzles on March 6.
Although recapturing the starting point guard job appears to be out of the picture, Lin will have the rest of the year to prove that he can still be a starter if not for the Lakers but possibly another team.
The stark reality is that Los Angeles may be heading in another direction at point guard that most likely will not include Lin in the future plans. The Lakers’ front office is said to have their eyes set on Rajon Rondo and Goran Dragic, who will both be unrestricted free agents this summer and reportedly have interest in joining the team.
If neither of those players choose to sign with the Lakers, the team could go the route of keeping Clarkson as the starting point guard next year.
Whatever the case may be, Lin is still playing for his future in the NBA beyond this season.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Bob Garcia IV
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