Jeremy Lin's Los Angeles Lakers Tenure Looking Like One-and-Done Season

David Murphy@@davem234Featured ColumnistDecember 22, 2014

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What’s eating Jeremy Lin? If he doesn’t step his game up soon, his season with the Los Angeles Lakers will be one-and-done.

The 26-year-old point guard is certainly one of basketball’s more polarizing figures. At the very least, he's seemingly someone at odds with himself.

During his first press conference in L.A., per Lakers.com, when asked whether he could start for the team, Lin said: “I would obviously love to, but that’s not me coming in saying I need this or that. I just want to be a part of the team.”

Later, when talking about expectations in a huge media market, he remarked: “One of the biggest ways I want to handle it is to not let it affect how I play or not to think about it or feel pressured."

Yet, when his starting role was taken away after 20 games, Lin sounded very much like someone who was feeling pressured, saying in the locker room (h/t Lakers Nation): “This is one of the toughest situations I’ve ever been in since I started playing the game of basketball, trying to figure it all out.”

The Harvard-educated athlete is highly quotable, but it’s his on-court actions that have painted the clearest picture. He simply hasn’t found his way in L.A. as a player, and the ongoing question is whether he ever will.

Mark Medina @MarkG_Medina

Byron Scott on Jeremy Lin: "If he got a lot more to give, then give it to us then."

Lin's game-to-game performances swing back and forth wildly regardless of his role as a starter or reserve. There have been nine occasions this season in which he made only one or none of his field-goal attempts for a combined 5-of-47 shots.

Yet on the other hand, he has scored in double figures 16 times. It is feast or famine in Los Angeles for the 6’3” guard, now with his fifth NBA team in as many seasons. 

Lin can be an effective player on any given night, whether using his speed to carve through defenses or pragmatically setting up his teammates for easy baskets. That said, his 4.9 assists per game this season ranks only 30th in the league.

That’s not how you make your teammates better.

Additionally, there can be a tentative nature when he's asked to perform within a structure that doesn’t fit his comfort zone. In an 82-game season where consistency and resilience are at such a high premium, hesitancy is a problem.

In many ways, his current struggles are emblematic of his career on the whole, which has been more defined by a few shining moments than stability.

Lin prospered at Harvard under Tommy Amaker in a fast-break system in which players were encouraged to sprint, not run.

But with the Golden State Warriors, the undrafted rookie had difficulty with Keith Smart’s flex offense and its frequent cuts and screens. Lin was waived after 29 games.

Mike D’Antoni allowed a minimum salary pickup the freedom to blossom with the New York Knicks, resulting in the 35-game Linsanity era that has become the prism through which he has been viewed and judged ever since.

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 04: Head coach Mike D'Antoni talks with Jeremy Lin #17 of the New York Knicks on March 4, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Boston Celtics defeated the New York Knicks 115-111 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackn
Elsa/Getty Images

Yet two subsequent seasons with the Houston Rockets were a mixed bag. As the initiator in Kevin McHale’s running game, Lin performed well—scrambling with the ball and scoring, or spreading it around the floor.

When asked to play off the ball as a 2-guard, however, he often faltered.

And that’s where he’s struggling again this season—having some great nights when being aggressive and creative in pick-and-roll situations, but looking flat-footed and unsure while trying to assimilate the more intricate aspects of Byron Scott’s Princeton-based system.

Mark Medina @MarkG_Medina

Byron laughed and said he did not consult with Mike D'Antoni on how to use Jeremy Lin. Safe to say Byron hasn't consulted Mike on anything

Once again, the conversation comes full circle—to an enigmatic basketball personality. As Mark Medina for the Los Angeles Daily News recently wrote, Lin continues to overanalyze his role:

I’m human so there are times you go through doubt or uncertainty or a little bit of searching. When the rhythm is going well, things will be easy. I won’t be thinking much when I figure it all out. At the end of the day, I’m confident I can be a great point guard.

But the "end of the day" can also be metaphorical. Are we talking about figuring it out in time to make a difference this season?

The Lakers absorbed the last year of Lin’s contract with the Rockets. While $8,374,646 counts toward the team’s cap, the actual salary payout is substantially higher at $14,898,938. This is due to the poison pill nature of an agreement that allowed the Rockets to snatch Lin away from the cash-strapped Knicks during the summer of 2012.

Los Angeles was willing to take a gamble on the cash outlay this season, given that the expiring contract came with both a first-round and second-round draft pick. But management will examine the possibility of re-signing Lin next summer with a much different mindset.

Shahan Ahmed @shahanLA

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has a talk with Jeremy Lin after practice #lakers http://t.co/ijqF8ejrAB

Scott is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Not only does he have a four-year contract, but he is closely allied with the team’s enduring linchpin. Kobe Bryant is still a megawatt star and a player who has no problems whatsoever with the current offensive system.

What Bryant does take issue with is players whose words overshadow their actions.

Is it fair for Lin’s comments to be so relentlessly seized upon with regularity?

Perhaps not, but in lieu of a redemptive tale, a player’s introspection becomes the story.

Jeremy Lin needs to figure out his role with the Lakers and let his playing do the talking.

Otherwise, his season will be one-and-done, and the Lakers will be just another stop along his curious basketball journey.