Jeremy Lin remains officially listed as day-to-day for the Brooklyn Nets after there was growing speculation he could return to the lineup from his latest hamstring injury as early as against the New Orleans Pelicans.
The veteran point guard last played just after Christmas and to say the Nets have missed his services would be akin to saying the man who gave us the era of “Linsanity” has been known to spark a little fan interest.
In all, Lin has played in just 12 games this season, averaging 14 points, six rebounds, and three assists, as the Nets have struggled to a league-worse 8-31 start.
Despite his prolonged absence, it’s clear he remains on the minds and in the hearts of NBA fans, who still cast enough All-Star ballot votes for him to finish eighth among all Eastern Conference guards, ahead of such notables as Kemba Walker, Bradley Beal, and Avery Bradley.
The only backcourt stars registering more votes than Lin were Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, DeMar DeRozan, Isaiah Thomas, Kyle Lowry, Derrick Rose and John Wall.
The Nets have largely refrained for allowing Lin to do any interviews as he rehabs, though he did recently tell reporters from a Chinese TV station that he felt he was healthy enough to be back in the lineup.
Later, coach Kenny Atkinson admitted he loved Lin’s competitiveness, but stopped well short of agreeing with his medical assessment. Beyond that, Lin’s teammates have been open about admitting what’s become obvious to everyone else still taking notice.
“We haven’t really seen what it’s like with everybody healthy on the team,” said reserve forward Joe Harris. “Where we’re at right now, I don’t know if our record is different if everybody’s healthy, but I will say that the cohesion and the chemistry when everybody’s healthy and playing is obviously better.”
Without Lin in uniform, the Nets are 3-9 in the last 12 games he has missed, and Atkinson’s motion offense has had little chance of kicking into gear.
After a recent 117-97 home loss to Atlanta, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, who Atkinson formally worked for as an assistant, said of the Nets’ struggles, “the point guard’s such a big part of really any offense, any vision.”
But as it stands, all Lin and management are left to do is wish for his speedy return and dream about the second half of the season being better than what the first has dreadfully proven to be.
“He’s certainly going to make the whole team in general perform better,” added Nets GM Sean Marks. “He’ll certainly give us a little bit of stability out there.”
Perhaps just as importantly, his return will make it easier for the front office to make some of the critical decisions they face going forward.
With the trade deadline looming, veteran center Brooks Lopez could be one of the most sought after pieces on the market. But before even seriously considering any such transaction, the Nets would like to see if he and Lin can be the pick-and-roll force they envisioned they could be when they first brought Lin over on a three-year, $36 million free-agent deal.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who coached Lin with the Knicks through the whole “Linsanity” phase, still believes he can be the leader the Nets so desperately need.
“That’s your brains, and he’s the one that’s going to be your motor,” he said of what Lin brings to the table. “When he’s not out there, it makes it tough. The league is a lot about injuries. If you can stay injury-free and be a good team, you have a chance.”
[Featured Image by Michael Reaves/Getty Images]