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Jeremy Lin Playing His Way Out of Los Angeles Lakers' Future

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2015

CLEVELAND, OH -  FEBRUARY 8: Jeremy Lin #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers moves the ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the game on February 8, 2015 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Andrew Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Jeremy Lin's time with the Los Angeles Lakers hasn't gone well, but the good newsfor him anywayis that it's probably almost over.

After another couple of months, the pending unrestricted free agent can seek a fresh start elsewhere.

Rest assured, he needs one.

Lin's Los Angeles saga has been a rough one. He's been bad for the Lakers. There's no getting around that—worse, in many ways, than the point guard has been since establishing his NBA name three years ago.

His accuracy from the field (42.6 percent) and turnover rate (19.9 percent) have both trended in the wrong direction. As a result, Lin saw his role disappear behind journeyman Ronnie Price and then-untested rookie Jordan Clarkson.

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 24: Robert Sacre #50 of the Los Angeles Lakers, Jeremy Lin #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Wesley Johnson #11 of the Los Angeles Lakers sit on the bench during a game against the Sacramento Kings on October 24, 2014 at the MGM Gr
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

It's hard to fault the Lakers for downsizing Lin's responsibilities. He hasn't performed well enough to earn minutes.

But you also can't blame Lin for coming up short in a situation that was destined for failure from the start.

Critically, he arrived with expectations. Lin was something more than a backup option at the 1. He was a potential marketing boon, a relatively young talent on a team defined by old ones.

Though Lin's track record suggested he'd never be an on-court star with the Lakers, perhaps the off-court hopes contributed to an overabundance of enthusiasm. Hopes got unrealistically high, and the result has been a narrative that feels like a bigger disappointment than it probably should.

Remember, Lin didn't pick the Lakers as a destination. He was sent there in a cost-cutting move by the Houston Rockets, who wanted to free up cash to take a run at Chris Bosh in July, as noted by NBA.com's Fran Blinebury.

"An unexpected trade landed him in Los Angeles last summer, with a Lakers franchise in upheaval, with a coach who didn't know what to do with him, with a team built to lose," Bleacher Report's Howard Beck observed. "As the Lakers have plummeted, so too has Lin's standing."

It's not complicated: Lin needs the ball in his hands to be effective, and Kobe Bryant's usage rate of 34.8 percentthe fourth-highest single-season figure of a very usage-heavy careermade that harder.

By the time Bryant went down with a shoulder injury, the damage had been done to Lin's confidence.

He'd already been stripped of his starter's stripes.

Lin spent too much time as a spot-up option. Though his three-point percentage has risen to a career-high 37.4 percent this season, Lin's greatest attribute is his ability to get to the hole.

It's worth noting that Lin's usage rate has been steady over the past three years, but the Lakers offensive philosophy, which head coach Byron Scott infamously explained wouldn't feature much use of the three-point shot, has resulted in cramped spacing and just 19.4 triple tries per game.

That figure ranks 22nd in the league.

Lin hasn't had many guys to kick to when he's had the ball, and even when given the chance, those guys haven't knocked down shots. L.A. is shooting just 34.9 percent from deep.

Toss in the fact that the Lakers also didn't have a consistent roll manor the spacing to make such sets effective in the first placeand it's no wonder Lin has withered.

L.A.'s overall approach marginalized a player who was already a marginal talent to begin with. That's not his fault.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 26:  Byron Scott of the Los Angeles Lakers talks to Jeremy Lin #17 during a 99-93 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center on November 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and ag
Harry How/Getty Images

At the same time, the facts are the facts: Lin has been objectively ineffective and inconsistent. Moreover, he's spent some time blaming others for his struggles.

"There are adjustments that could've been made everywhere from everybody's standpoint," he said, per Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. "I don't know what they are right now. But if I sat down and thought about it for a long time, I could come up with some stuff."

Lin's right to be frustrated, but it can be a bad look when a player cites things outside of himself as reasons for failure.

Of course, when Lin says things to Medina like, "My initial expectations were very different than what happened" and "It’s tough to figure it all out, especially when you’re not practicing. Even in the preseason, I didn’t get a chance to practice with him," of Kobe Bryant's inability to practice consistently, he's also speaking the truth.

Christine Cotter/Associated Press

We seem to prefer it when athletes shoulder the blame themselves, like Lin did when he told Beck, "There's a lot of factors that are involved in that. And I think I have to continue to work, I have to continue to get better and see how can I try to make the most of the situation, or be the best version of me that I can be here."

Parse out the blame, the rotten situation and the ill-fitting scheme however you want; the upshot is Lin's time with the Lakers hasn't worked out.

Fortunately, there's reason to believe things could improve next year for the soon-to-be-liberated point guard.

The key here is acknowledging that Lin has an NBA future. That can be easy to forget sometimes.

He's 26 and has shown enough game to intrigue suitors around the league.

Sure, he needs an offense built on spacing and heavy use of the pick-and-roll. But if you think about it, that's just another way of saying he needs to be part of a modern, functional NBA offense. He didn't have that opportunity with the Lakers, but other teams can provide one.

He was perfectly fine in Houston, where he spent two years playing break-even, almost perfectly average basketball—which is fine for a backup guard.

It's no surprise, then, that the Rockets are interested in bringing Lin back for another tour of duty, per Beck.

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 09:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets celebrates a shot at the buzzer with Jeremy Lin #7 and Patrick Beverly #12 to defeat the Phoenix Suns 101-98 at the Toyota Center on April 9, 2013 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expre
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Sunsdepending on which members of their crowded backcourt survive the trade deadlineall play an open style that favors Lin's game. And they each rank in the top five in three-pointers attempted, which also offers Lin the space he'll need to hunt for layups and kickout chances.

It's hard to peg Lin's salary slot going forward. He might be a mid-level exception player, or he might have to settle for less than that.

We can say for certain he won't see an annual salary approaching the roughly $15 million he's collecting this year ever again.

In a way, that's a good thing. It brings expectations for his performance back down to where they belong.

Linsanity is over. The era of Linsensibility is nearly upon us.

It'll officially start when he gets out of Los Angeles.

Statistics via Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated. Contract information via Spotrac.

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