It's certainly not as crazy—or horrific—as it sounds.
Stuck in a quagmire that is a full-blown rebuild around one Kobe Bryant, general manager Mitch Kupchak has pulled out all the stops in the hopes of luring a big-name free agent to town, but even Carmelo Anthony is apparently out of the picture at this juncture, per Chris Palmer.
Entering the offseason after a 27-55 campaign and very little in the way of assets to move around or quality pieces to entice free agents (excuse them for not loving the idea of the soon-to-be 36-year-old Bryant), the struggles were quite easy to see coming—living on the reputation of the city alone, which has since been taken over by the "little brother" Clippers, wasn't going to work.
So it makes perfect sense that Kupchak and Co. are intent to take on bad contracts, gain assets and try again next offseason. Or, in more simplistic terms, help the Houston Rockets apparently get Chris Bosh by taking on Lin, according to ESPN's Jeff Goodman:
Rockets have dealt Jeremy Lin and a future first-rounder to Lakers, sources told ESPN. Houston clearing space to land Bosh, keep Parsons.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) July 11, 2014
For Houston, moving Lin clears up the cap space to build an immediate contender, but the motivation for Los Angeles is certainly not as sexy. Lin represents in the neighborhood of an $8.3 million cap hit next season, per Spotrac, before hitting unrestricted free agency. That will continue to be the motivation for the Lakers throughout the rest of the offseason, as ESPN's Marc Stein alluded to before the deal:
Lakers would make sense as destination with cap space to take on Jeremy Lin's expiring contract & without cutting into any of 2015 cap space— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 11, 2014
At this point, with most of the major dominoes falling into place, this is the best possible thing the Lakers could have done in order to build a better foundation. A certain familiar Lakers name concurs with that notion:
For one, the team already has lottery pick Julius Randle for years to come. Two, more cash in 2015 means the Lakers can chase a bevy of impending unrestricted free agents, such as Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, Rajon Rondo and more.
As an added caveat, Lin certainly has the potential to make the Lakers competitive next season, depending on how the rest of the roster is constructed around he, Bryant and Randle.
Lin has been hit with a variety of different roles over the course of his brief career, and the Harvard product will certainly have enough motivation to play at a high level on a bad squad in order to cash in on free agency next offseason.
I think this year was an up-and-down year. A lot of good things, a lot of bad things, definitely an up-and-down year. A lot of adjusting. I would go through stretches where I played 35-40 minutes consistently; then I would go back down to 15-20.
Next year will be my fifth season, so my first year and a half, I dealt with my name being surrounded with getting cut and things like that. Then it was my name being surrounded with trades. So I would much rather take the second one than the first. I am not really too worried about it.
That was Lin, as captured by Houston Chronicle's Jenny Dial Creech, after what was an awkward season with Houston—James Harden wanted the ball at all times—that yet again threw his overall stat sheet into a chaotic flux:
With the Lakers, Lin gets the ball back in his hands, at least presumably, despite a veteran like Steve Nash still being on the roster. His role as facilitator is what brought out his best in New York, and it can on the West Coast as well with Bryant on the wing and a learning rookie like Randle in the paint.
Even if Lin is a flop, the move is a clear signal from the front office that next year is essentially a throwaway season in order to build for the future. Bryant has only a few years left before he elects to hang up the sneakers, so another first-round pick to complement Randle, plus perhaps a high-impact free agent next offseason means a foundation has been laid.
Plus, the franchise has a ton of roster filling to do still, so we have yet to see Kupchak's entire hand in what is surely a slow rebuild (just not 76ers' slow). The pace has been set by the market itself, but such is life with no franchise immune to the ups and downs of the NBA hierarchy.
Lin is not the savior the Lakers need, and he certainly is not the major name fans want. But he's critical nonetheless, and might just win over fans along the way.