After months of speculation, teams around the league are finally beginning to formulate their rosters for the forthcoming NBA season. An offseason shrouded in mystery and wonder has ultimately left the Los Angeles Lakers relatively empty handed as their pursuits of premier free agents, such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, fell flat on their faces. However, the marquee acquisition of the summer, both in terms of financial income and talent added, has to the orchestrator of ‘Linsanity’.
Although the addition puzzled many at the time of the announcement, Jeremy Lin’s combined potential and ability, as well as his non-future hampering contract, has made plenty of Lakers fans have a change of heart about his new position with the team. Yet, one big query remains: just how will Kobe Bryant pair with Jeremy Lin? Although the two match up on paper, on-court realities could leave the Lakers’ most talented backcourt since 2010 in tatters. Contrary to many blogs that you may have been reading, I remain calmly optimistic that the duo can bond to become an offensive headache for the rest of the league, and here’s why.
Whilst few can deny that Lin and Kobe both star at their prime when acting as dominant ball handling guards, the misconception that two players of this caliber couldn’t fuse their games to work off of each others’ strengths is confusing to say the least. The question would be a little trickier to answer if we were dealing with Bryant at his athletic, explosive peak, or if Lin even had the remotest touch of animosity towards Kobe, yet no evidence that we’ve been given leads us to believe that either of these situations are true.
“There’s different ways I can go,” Bryant said. “Obviously, the easier of the two would be if I could have the same type of explosiveness that I had last year. It makes my game very easy. But if it’s not there, I’m ready to adapt.”
Bryant’s open approach in November towards changing the style of his game resonates clearly at this current time, especially as he would now be able to share the baton with an offensively gifted prospect rather than a worn down Steve Nash.
“Kobe wants to win and I want to win. I think Kobe wants his teammates to train hard and I will train hard. I hope he can respect me and we can collaborate well together,” Lin told a press conference in fluent Mandarin.”
Lin, too, has expressed his fondness towards Kobe Bryant and seems eager to earn his trust and respect, as well as learning from the five-time NBA champion. It seems as if discussions between the pair have been productive and that they’re on the same page regarding what they expect from the team and themselves. This chemistry immediately surpasses that which Lin and Harden have shared during his two years in Houston and all signs seem to point towards the two having a harmonious relationship.
With all of this being said, all the off-court unity in the world couldn’t fix this pair if Jeremy Lin doesn’t begin to develop more of an off the ball presence on offence. Throughout the course of last season, Lin only managed to convert 41.2 FG% of his catch and shoot opportunities. His weak off the ball vision and IQ, as well as being paired with trigger happy James Harden, appeared to lead Lin into either driving to the rim or taking jumpers, that of which he shot only at 33.9 FG%. With that being said, he fared considerably better on assisted jumpers, converting 76.1 FG% in this category.
Whilst the evidence appears to be at least somewhat contradictory, one theme appears unanimously: Lin must develop and become a threat whilst not in possession of the ball for this duo to work. Although this suggested growth remains a big “if”, Lin has all of the tools around him to make him succeed, namely Steve Nash, whose passing abilities and movement (at least not as of late) remain stuff of legend in NBA lore.
Although this duo don’t complement each other perfectly, find me a handful of pairs that do so in the modern league. Why were James and Wade so successful? Why do the Splash Brothers strike fear into the hearts of NBA defenses? They communicate, they adapt and they’re ready to grow and change in the name of unity and success. Kobe knows this, Lin knows this and if you think that only a perfectly balanced and orchestrated group can work well together, you’re living in a fantasy land. Sure, both players will need to become accustomed to scoring and producing in ways which they are not entirely familiar with, but to mindlessly state that such professionals are incapable of doing so is just plain wrong. With father time continuing to haunt Kobe, he needs to win now. As for Lin, being in a contract year and having such a figure to motivate and develop you can only do wonders for his game.
There seems to be three keys needed in order to make this pair a formidable threat in the league: communication, willingness and eagerness to grow and adapt to each others’ strengths and weaknesses. Lin/Kobe is by no means a match made in heaven, but if the pair can overcome their shortcomings and be somewhat enthusiastic about changing their previous roles to taking duties which best fit the team, then this odd couple may just have legs within it.
Just remember, Lakers Nation, Lin and Harden translated into a duo driving a playoff team.
Before you try and convince yourself that the issues with Lin and Kobe on paper will mean that the couple are destined to fail, remember that the game is played on court, not through ink.
EDIT: Remember, this is an article concerning the OFFENSIVE future of the pair, not their DEFENSIVE efforts. That is another article for another day.