Without a single minute as a Los Angeles Laker under his belt, Silver Screen & Roll has already dedicated literally thousands of words to Jeremy Lin. Is it because he's a difference-making player who's going to shuttle the Lakers back into the winds of playoff contention? Probably not. Is it because he's as much of a pop-culture phenomenon as he is a professional basketball player? Perhaps. Is it because at $8.3 million, he represents over 13% of the team's payroll? Maybe.
Whichever way you cut it, there's no doubt that Lin is going to be an extraordinarily relevant player for the Lakers and Los Angeles next season. It seems as if the narratives surrounding the point guard have been every bit of his overall mythology as his play for most of his career. From Linsanity in New York, to his poison pill contract in Houston, to his salary clearing trade to the Lakers this past summer, the former Harvard standout has made as much noise between games as he has on the court itself.
It's time for all of the long form essays to go out the window as the 2014-2015 NBA season is set to begin. When you wade past the merchandise, inspiration, marketing and E:60 stories and look at his basketball career, Jeremy Lin's sheer statistical profile isn't all that impressive.
Lakers season preview
Lakers season preview
The point guard is on his fourth team in five seasons after being undrafted in 2010. Lin just turned 26 years old, an age at which many players hit the beginning of their primes. He is coming off of a 2013-2014 stat line of 12.3 points, 4.1 assists and 2.5 turnovers per game and a career best .446 field goal, .358 three-point, and .823 free-throw shooting line in 71 games played (33 starts). While there's nothing wrong with those numbers, they're very borderline for what would be considered a starting point guard in today's game. Even looking at his 2012-2013 season (82 games, 13.4 ppg, 6.1 apg, 2.9 turnovers per game, .441/.339/.785), Lin is still a solid player, but nothing more. Statistically, he bears some resemblance to Luke Ridnour's years in Minnesota. No disrespect to Ridnour, but that may tell you all you need to know.
The point here isn't to antagonize the legion of Lin fans into hurling a bunch of vicious tweets my way. Jeremy Lin is a legitimate NBA player. There's nothing wrong with saying that. But he's not better than Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook or Chris Paul, nor is he better than Damian Lillard, Mike Conley Jr. or even Jeff Teague. There's nothing wrong with that either -- all those guys are All-Stars or were very much in consideration for it last season.
We have to face the facts of what Jeremy Lin is: He's a solid role player and combo guard who should be rounding into his prime. He's just finished his second full NBA season and third meaningful one overall. He's physically matured into whatever he'll ever be and certainly experienced enough to know how the league defends him and what he needs to do to succeed. Lin is a limited shooter, is turnover-prone (but getting much better) and just had his best defensive season...playing in front of Dwight Howard. However, he's a deadly slasher who can get to the rim with efficiency and make free throws, with a nice handle and a good, but unspectacular, passing ability.
The peaks of Linsanity have certainly washed away. In the final year of his $25 million deal, his contract isn't about all the money owed to him any longer. He's had the ignominy of being waived twice, left to walk for nothing in free agency and traded for salary relief. All Jeremy Lin has to do now is play basketball.
Lin will be on a team bereft of talent, let alone talent capable of reaching his dizzying heights. On paper, it's absolutely stultifying: Jeremy Lin could be the second best player on this squad. That's not a knock on Lin -- but for a Lakers team that's aiming for the postseason year after year, I would like to believe they want a second banana that's, you know, made an All-Star team. Or won a postseason game in which he started.
The time is now for Jeremy Lin to become a consistent force in the NBA. He'll be operating the offense alongside Kobe Bryant and most likely getting the second or third most shots, depending on how trigger-happy Nick Young is this season. Lin will have the ball in his hands almost every possession he's on the floor, unless Jordan Clarkson can prove something as a second-round pick in his first season, or Steve Nash can return from the dead. In short: Jeremy Lin is going to be a talented player with potential on a really crappy team. If ever there was going to be an opportunity for Lin to run an offense unimpeded by benching (in lieu of Patrick Beverley) or injury (in New York), he might have no better opportunity than right now.
To be fair, not every player "gets it" after three seasons. There are some guards that put together All-Star seasons in their late twenties, with recent cases such as Jameer Nelson and Mo Williams being proof. Neither of those players got as much opportunity earlier in their careers and finally flourished in the right systems. New coach Byron Scott has openly professed his wishes for a faster, up-and-down offense, which may work with the personnel he has. Hopefully he'll lean as heavily on Lin as he did Chris Paul, Jason Kidd and Kyrie Irving in his previous coaching stops.
There's no doubt the fans and media will make this season as much about the "phenomenon" of Jeremy Lin as they will his play on the court. His legions of fans will come to STAPLES Center no matter how horrifically low the Lakers may sink in the standings, and reporters will cover him because he'll deliver ratings.
But for Lin, never before has a season been more about basketball. With the way the 2014-2015 campaign has been laid out, more than ever, it's time for him to go from potential to realized dominance.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino