Offseason fun is over for Jeremy Lin.
After spending part of the summer posterizing his mom and dressing up as an Adidas sales rep in Taiwan convincing consumers to buy Derrick Rose's kicks, hitting on girls and making fun of his own game, the Lakers guard now finds himself in an eerily similar situation.
He's playing on an injury-riddled team, being gifted the starting point guard position and figuring out how to appease a superstar scorer.
This season, which begins Tuesday when he faces off against his former Houston Rockets team, Lin may face his last chance to prove to the NBA that he's not only a starting point guard but also worthy of a multiyear contract.
Long ago was Linsanity (32 months and three seasons). There's no underplaying the improbable storyline and how he single-handedly made the Knicks relevant again after averaging 18.5 points and 7.6 assists during his 26 games as an everyday player.
But what has he done lately? Nothing to ballyhoo over; he has been average.
In 71 games (33 as a starter) last season with the Rockets, Lin was tied for 41st among all guards in plus/minus efficiency with plus-2.4, according to NBA.com/Stats. Among starting point guards, Lin was tied for 12th. Notable point guards who had a lower plus/minus than Lin include:
- Mike Conley (+2.1)
- Kemba Walker (+1.8)
- Jeff Teague (+1.5)
- Jrue Holiday (+0.7)
- Raymond Felton (+0.4)
Normally, there wouldn't be much fuss over Lin's performance with the Rockets, but he was gifted an inflated three-year contract worth $25.1 million. In his two seasons with the Rockets, the 26-year-old Lin averaged a pedestrian 12.9 points per game on 44 percent shooting and 5.1 assists.
He lost his starting position to relatively unknown guard in Beverley, who was getting paid $788,000 last season (about 15 percent of Lin's salary, according to Spotrac). Next season, Lin will be an unrestricted free agent, which means he will have to prove that he's neither overrated nor overpaid as the 24th-largest NBA salary at $14.8 million (only $8.3 million hits the Lakers cap).
While playing with Kobe Bryant isn't the most point guard-friendly situation, Lin doesn't have very big shoes to fill. In fact, in the past two decades—aside from Nick Van Exel, the championship days of Derek Fisher and when Bryant moonlighted as a point guard—the Lakers have had pitiful point guards.
Since 1996, here is a list of actual and quasi-point guards who have basically been space-eaters:
- Kendall Marshall
- Steve Nash
- Steve Blake
- Jordan Farmer
- Andrew Goudelock
- Sasha Vujacic
- Smush Parker
- Ramon Sessions
- Chucky Atkins
- Ron Harper
- Derek Harper
- Tyronn Lue
- Lindsey Hunter
- Gary Payton
- Jannero Pargo
- Brian Shaw
- Mike Penberthy
- Joe Crispin
- Javaris Crittenton
- Trey Johnson
- Darius Morris
While the ball is in Lin's court, especially with the Lakers being even thinner at the point guard position following the news of Nash suffering from season-ending nerve damage in his back, he has a limited amount of time to prove himself.
Maybe it's reading too much into it, but Lakers coach Byron Scott waited until three days before the season opener to announce that journeyman Ronnie Price would not start because of a bone bruise injury. If Lin is really battling with Price—who is playing for his sixth team in his 10 years in the league—for the starting position, then Lin's leash may be even shorter.
One thing is for certain; this isn't the first time Lin has faced doubters. He's proved them wrong in the past. Just this time, it may be his last shot.
Bryan Chu is a multiaward-winning journalist who has covered the Los Angeles Lakers for NBA.com and worked as a sports and criminal justice reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News and the Albany Times Union. During his career, the Los Angeles native has covered everything from Jeremy Lin (pre- and post-Linsanity) to Lance Armstrong. You can follow him on Twitter: BryanChu.