Jeremy Lin is proving to be every bit the difference maker the Brooklyn Nets envisioned he would be when they signed him to a lucrative free agent deal last summer.
While it’s true the Nets still own the league’s worst record at 13-55, since Lin returned from a hamstring injury late last month, they are a far more respectable 4-7, including a pair of wins over their cross-borough rival New York Knicks.
During the nearly two months Lin was sidelined, the Nets posted just one victory, to go just 1-25 over a 26-game stretch. Overall, the Nets are 7-16 with Lin in the lineup this season, averaging 14 points, five assists and three rebounds.
As hard as being away from the game was, Lin now reflects all of it was not in vain.
Lin shared that his level of faith only grew as he learned to appreciate and support his teammates through all the hard times and losing. He added that being forced to try to remain hands all in with everyone in the locker room while being off the court only served to make him a better leader.
His support and level of play and leadership since he’s returned to action hasn’t been lost on his teammates.
“Obviously he’s taken us to a whole other level, or even two levels, I don’t know if that’s really the expression, but that’s the way it feels,” star center Brook Lopez recently opined. “He makes us a vastly better team when he’s on the court – I don’t really think you can count that enough.”
Coach Kenny Atkinson added, “I think he’s kind of regulated us a little bit in terms of getting guys in the right position and in their correct roles. That’s been important. I think guys really thrive in an environment where there’s stability.”
Playing at a consistently high level has also become the norm for Lin, so much so that he recently shared he no longer gets overly excited about the thought of playing at Madison Square Garden, the place where the era of “Linsanity” first took flight during the 2012 season.
“At this point, not really,” he told reporters after recently being there to help the Nets knock off the Knicks 121-110, contributing 15 points, eight assists and four rebounds.
“Maybe my first time back, maybe my second time back,” he added. “Each time. it gets a little more diluted in terms of, like, more time has gone pass beyond like five or six years ago.”
Later, Atkinson marveled that he hasn’t yet designated a level of how good Lin, signed with the Nets for the next two seasons after this one ends, can truly be.
“He just hasn’t had a normal preparation, normal game reps and a normal season,” he added. “My hope is that we finish the season with good momentum going into the off-season, he has a great off-season and get off to a better start next year.”
Lin is quick to sign off on that game plan.
“I’m happy I’m healthy,” he said. “I definitely appreciate it a lot more now. Overall, I feel like my game is getting a little bit sharper, every game you learn something new, you learn a little bit more, you’re reminded ‘this is what it’s like.'”
And in the process, Lin is learning to know his teammates better and better, which can only bold well for the Nets as they strive to rebuild.
“That’s the enjoying part, figuring out how these pieces work together,” Lin added. “That’s the challenge of every point guard, but that’s a fun one.”
[Featured Image by David Zalubowski/AP Images]