Starting Jeremy Lin the Last 10 Games


Byron Scott’s inaugural season as the Lakers head coach has turned into one of those moments of savagery you knew was coming- like a car crash you want to turn your eyes away from. But the magnetic lure of disaster keeps you glued to the body count piled up roadside as darkness descends.

The level of transparency has been bewildering, and yet oddly encouraging, because sometimes it’s better not to know the thought process that goes into flinging an organization into the abyss. First, there was the refusal to incorporate a spread offense as nearly 90% of the NBA teams seem to do with ease and regularity these days. Then, there was the insistence on mid-range shooting- which the Lakers have perfected (4th in the league in makes, 26th in efficiency)- over three point shooting which the Lakers have suppressed on purpose, accelerating their chilly demise.

Feb 22, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Jeremy Lin (17) reacts to a 3-point basket in the second half of the game against the Boston Celtics at Staples Center. Lakers won 118-111 in OT. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The revolutionary way the game is being played in NBA arenas has given Scott a tutorial as he clings to the drowning tide of nostalgia. His insistence on “old school basketball” has recast him in an anachronistic light, someone who mistakes blood for water, a former player flailing at the present and future, and not on accident, as he is the last Laker standing in a sea of fast paced, ball movement, harmonious symphonies while his team slows everything down and virulently holds the ball as the NBA world turns and turns.

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  • Scott’s lineups are a thing of mystery, one of those unsolvable puzzles that defy explanation or imagination just because they don’t follow any sort of rationality of which questions can be answered in real time. There is an arbitrary feel to the way he nurtures his players as if he is blindfolded on the one hand and tied to a lamp post on the other. The truth is, Scott’s line-ups are a disaster waiting to stab the thousands of Lakers followers in the heart.

    He plays Kobe Bryant too many minutes. He plays Ed Davis too little. He rips Nick Young, an emotionally fragile player. He tolerates Carlos Boozer’s way of playing defense with his hands. He benches Jeremy Lin. He starts Ryan Kelly out of position. He is attached to the point of infatuation to the way he was nurtured as a Laker (once Pat Riley benched Scott because he got married during the All-Star break and Riley interpreted that to mean Scott was suddenly distracted). He is dismissive of modern trends that lead to wins.

    Is this arrogance or is it just the buried vanity of a man who, once upon a time, was part of a great dynasty that exerted their will against their opposition without dissecting the root cause: they were talent rich. Let’s be clear. Scott is not a politician and has no constituents and is not up for re-election. This is a dictatorship.

    Scott’s bosses, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak, gaze upon Scott as a branch of the extended family tree, the one person they can trust to deliver upon their agenda. The problem is, no one knows exactly what that agenda really is.

    Nothing has created a Byron Scott sub-culture of hatred and ridicule than what Scott has done to this season of Jeremy Lin. Lin came in with a blank slate and an opportunity denied him in Houston. As the undisputed Lakers point guard, he was given latitude to make mistakes and generally guide the team with only one prescription: be aggressive. Scott would nightly chide Lin, as gently as he knew how- which isn’t much- to stop “thinking” and be a basketball player out there.

    But, the true nature of Scott emerged when he benched Lin for Ronnie Price, an overall tough and gritty player who defends by playing physical, a characteristic of Byron Scott, the player.  Because Scott trusted his instincts and his past,  Lin was never ever able to convince Scott he was wrong in his classification of him as someone who can’t create tempo and make plays for others. But, this is the reality: of the Lakers 63 games played, Lin has been a bench player for nearly 70% of them.

    So, now comes word Scott is going to start Lin in the last 10 games of the season which rings of a belated gift. It’s not particularly surprising since Scott’s been wishy-washy all year, but Lin, in these last 10 games of this horrific season will face Jrue Holiday, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Ty Lawson, Ricky Rubio and Rajon Rondo. If this truly is audition season, and if the Lakers have made up their mind about Clarkson, then they owe it to Lin to play him against top notch point guard talent as he will be looking for a job come summer.

    Feb 6, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Jeremy Lin (17) shoots a jump shot against the Orlando Magic during the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    The Rockets have already expressed interest in bringing Lin back and Lin continually praises his former Rockets teammates. Unlike the Lakers, the Rockets developed a solid relationship with Lin while he was there and going back to Houston, even if the Rocket offense is not inherently built to showcase Lin’s capabilities, will be, if nothing else, an exercise in familiarity.

    Lin has played his entire career with a competent big man to clog the lane. In the absence of such a threat, he was inhibited from what he does well. The pick and roll sets Lin is accustomed to were for the most part, absent in large numbers. And there was this last bit of slap in the face: Steve Nash working with Jordan Clarkson and Lin not included nor invited.

    The Lakers have already made their bed. Jordan Clarkson is their “guy”. Playing Clarkson off the bench is a lens from which they can analyze how Clarkson will fare if they indeed throw money at Rajon Rondo or Goran Dragic this summer. And Lin gets what he should have had from the very beginning, a commitment from Scott as to his role on the team.

    While Scott gets to revel in his ‘ I gave Lin a chance’ summary as this year dwindles down to its likely bitter conclusion, Lin’s last 10 games will be his resume builder as he puts this season with the Lakers in his rearview mirror.

    Next: Byron Scott Gets An F In Decision Making