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This Legendary Knick Deserves One More Shot

It feels like a lifetime ago that Jeremy Lin took the world by storm during his sophomore NBA campaign. On an injury-depleted New York Knicks squad during the 2011/12 NBA season, head coach Mike D’Antoni turned to an unknown bench warmer to try to kickstart the team’s offense, and the rest is history.

Where has Jeremy Lin been for the past three years, after seemingly disappearing from the league? Why haven’t we gotten a taste of “Linsanity” in so long? Let’s dig a little deeper into the Jeremy Lin story, what he still brings to the table, and why he can’t seem to catch a break:

From Rags To Riches To Rags Again

“Linsanity” took over the sports headlines from February through March 2012. Having played a total of 55 minutes through his first 23 games with the team, Lin would explode onto the scene with 25 points, five rebounds, and seven assists in a win over the New Jersey Nets. He would record a 23-point, 10-assist double-double over John Wall and the Wizards.

Lin led the Knicks on a seven-game winning streak after joining the starting lineup. His arrival culminated in a 38-point performance in a win over Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers and NBA Eastern Conference Player of The Week honors.

The team would go 16-10 with Lin as their go-to guard, and Lin averaged over 18 points and seven assists per game over that span, before succumbing to a season-ending injury. Though his season ended with disappointment as he opted for surgery on a torn meniscus, it appeared that a new star had been born.

Unfortunately, Lin never quite reached the heights of New York’s brief but amazing Linsanity era. He moved on to Houston, where he started 115 games in two years while putting up a respectable 13 points per game. He spent time in Charlotte as an explosive sixth man and moved on to Brooklyn where he appeared destined to reclaim some of his New York magic, before injuries derailed his career again, cutting short his 2016/17 season and holding him to just one appearance in 2017/18.

He split the 2018/19 season between Atlanta and Toronto, eventually falling out of the Raptors’ rotation on their path to the franchise’s first championship. He still nearly averaged double-figures in scoring on the season, with 9.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Still decent numbers for a role player despite his inconsistent play.

His career averages up to that point were 11.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 34% from three-point range. Not exactly superstar numbers, but certainly decent numbers for a rotational player (at least a reserve guard).

Amazingly, though he was still only 31 years of age at that point, no NBA suitors came calling as he entered free agency in 2019. The closest he has ever come to an NBA return since has been a stint in the G-League (where he was a top-10 guard in virtually all statistically categories), but he has primarily been forced to take his talent to China over the past half-decade. What happened, and will he ever get another chance?

Black Balled From The League?

From the outside looking in, the most obvious reason for his inability to find employment in the NBA was his declining play during his last several seasons. He played relatively well with the Hawks in the first half of 2018/19 but struggled mightily down the stretch for Toronto. His confidence seemed crushed, and his shooting touch virtually disappeared as the team plowed into the playoffs, causing him to completely fall out of the rotation.

As noted, Lin also had some red flags in his injury history, having played just 37 games from 2016-2018, though he appeared much more durable in his last season (appearing in 74 games).

However, it could certainly be argued that it is unusual for the league to completely write off a solid contributor after just one bad half-season and some on-again-off-again injuries.

One could make the argument that Lin brings with him a “Tim-Tebow” effect, as his celebrity since the “Linsanity” era has outweighed his actual production on the court. That said, nearly a decade removed from his Knicks tenure, that possible distraction wouldn’t appear to be a valid concern.

If you ask Jeremy Lin, he feels that race may have played a role in the abrupt end of his NBA career. Lin is Taiwanese-American, one of the only players of Asian descent in the league. In a recent story by Insider, Lin claimed that he had essentially “begged” teams for a non-guaranteed, training camp contract and found no suitors. During a run with the Warriors’ G-League team in Santa Cruz in 2020, Lin played great, averaging nearly 20 points per game, but still drew no interest from the NBA level.

Lin explained that “as somebody who doesn’t look the part, people are always slower to believe and then quicker to doubt.” Lin stated that he does believe race played a role in his lack of opportunities, even citing racial statements/jokes from former assistant coaches and even questionable headlines in the media.

Honestly, looking at Lin’s career trajectory, and the level of play he still appears capable of achieving, it is hard to write off those beliefs.

What He Brings To The Table

Jeremy Lin can play either guard position at an above-average level. While he occasionally struggles with consistency, and he is now 34 years old and on the back-nine of his career, he can be an ideal sparkplug off the bench for a good NBA team, a role excelled in with Charlotte and with even at times with Atlanta during his last NBA season. When Lin gets on a role, he is still capable of going on a run of elite basketball. There isn’t a team in the league that can’t use a guy with his skillset on their bench. The talent is there, and the price is right.

Even beyond his play on the court, Lin can help a franchise sell tickets and merch. Not only is he still popular in America, as proven by his highly anticipated upcoming HBO documentary, but he has an utterly massive following across the Pacific in Asia, a huge market that NBA teams are well aware of.

He has served as an inspiration for a generation of young Asian and Asian-American ballers, and it is a pity he is no longer able to showcase his skills on the biggest NBA stage.

Jeremy Lin deserves to be in the NBA. He has never been given the benefit of the doubt that you would generally expect a player of his stature to receive. The NBA made an incredible amount of money around the world off of Jeremy Lin and hung him out to dry. He is a good player, and model teammate, and a role model to kids around the globe.

Jeremy Lin deserves the opportunity to end his NBA career on his terms, I hope he gets that opportunity before all is said and done.

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