Jeremy Lin has finally found a home.
Not in a first-time sense but in the sense of a non-chaotic situation. No expectations. No hype. No Linsanity.
As the first American of Taiwanese or Chinese descent in the league, the now 25-year-old, four-year veteran entered the league to grand expectations. The skill has always been bubbling on the surface, sometimes boiling over, but all of that was lost in the shuffle of a fan and media hail storm of which there seemed to be no end.
After a stint with Golden State and the spotlight of the Big Apple allowing him to spread his wings as a player, Lin wound up in Houston as the heir apparent to Yao Ming and the NBA's legion of fans in Asia, whether he liked it or not.
Now on the West Coast, his latest locale has the makings of one that will free him from the shackles of what has been a rather tumultuous four years:
Los Angeles truly is the perfect environment. It is one Lin can truly embrace, as the narrative is for castoffs (Carlos Boozer) and veterans with something to prove (Kobe Bryant) to make something happen, and he's already fitting right in, as illustrated by ESPN's Dave McMenamin:
A castoff himself so that Houston could engage in a futile pursuit of Chris Bosh, Lin has a chance to prove he belongs as a full-time starter in the league before his one year deal that pays him $8.3 million, per Spotrac, expires and sees him off to free agency.
Hardly anything stands in his way of the starting gig, even with 40-year-old Steve Nash still currently on the roster—he's appeared in a total of 65 games the past two seasons.
It won't be like Houston, where he seemingly wasted away as James Harden demanded the ball at all times, before actually being thrown to the wayside in favor of Patrick Beverly.
In fact, as much as Lin (who came to town with a first-round pick) is a rental who helps clear cash for the Lakers to pursue potential unrestricted free agents like Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo and others next offseason, he's a critical cog in the overall development of the roster.
His abilities with the ball in his hands will help to free up Bryant, sure, but more importantly he'll be able to act as a mentor for second-round pick Jordan Clarkson, as well as put No. 7 overall pick Julius Randle in the best situation to produce and develop.
All the while, Lin will continue to work on his weaknesses in what is clearly a throwaway year for the organization. Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding summed up his skill-based aspirations quite well:
For Lin, he is working to add the floater to his all-wheel-driving arsenal this summer and seeking to master controlled attack mode a la Chris Paul and Tony Parker. Lin is still trying to solidify his outside shot, left hand and defense.
Yet all that is secondary to the springboard he can already sense under his feet after escaping the pressure of what was expected of him in Houston.
Next year is something of the ultimate test for Lin. It's all too easy to forget just how young he truly is and the number of years he surely has left in the pros, but his capacity and future pay hinge on what he can manage to do with his new situation.
If Lin flops, it may be hard to escape demons that are playing next to a legend like Bryant and learning under the watchful eye of one of the best point guards ever, in tandem with past erratic production.
But expectations, or the lack thereof, reign supreme. Nobody expects much from Lin, especially in the manner he was obtained, just like nobody really expects much from the Lakers as a whole.
It's a situation just begging Lin to excel in, and if he's granted control like he was in New York, he has the outright skill to thrive and perhaps help field a cohesive offense that can at least keep the team in the playoff hunt in a deep Western Conference.
In a way, Lin is rather fortunate. The glamor of his first few years in the NBA has faded, and most players four years deep aren't usually lucky enough to get another chance to prove themselves.
Lin has just that in a vacuum that culminates in the perfect opportunity for a springboard to stardom. As they say, the ball's in his court.
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