The Lakers had been trying to acquire point guard Jeremy Lin for four years. On Thursday, it became a reality.
“(Jeremy) came to Los Angeles a week ago for his physical and we had a chance to visit in my office,” Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said. “The first thing I said to him when he sat down in my office was: “The third time is the charm.”
Lin spent the last two years as a member of the Rockets before the Lakers acquiredthe Harvard product, along with a future first-round pick and a 2015 second-round pick in exchange for the rights to Sergei Lischchuk. With L.A. having enough cap space, they were able to absorb his salary, while also maintaining cap flexibility for the future as Lin’s contract expires at the end of the season.
”I’m really excited to be a part of this organization and I’m seeing this as a new start, a fresh start,” Lin said.
After going undrafted in the 2010 NBA Draft, Lin had a strong showing at summer league with the Dallas Mavericks. Kupchak stated the Lakers offered him a contract, but so did the Golden State Warriors.
“We were negotiating with his representatives to bring him to Laker camp,” Kupchak said. “There was guaranteed money involved and it came to a point where it was the same as the Warriors. Jeremy, because of his roots in the Bay Area, chose the Warriors. So we missed out on him four years ago.”
When the Warriors waived Lin on the first day of training camp when the lockout was lifted for the 2011-12 season, the Lakers put in a claim. But based on record, the Houston Rockets were awarded the 6-foot-3 guard. He was, however, waived again before the season started on Christmas Day.
The Knicks then claimed the Harvard product off waivers. Injuries to a number of guards ahead of him on the depth chart opened up an opportunity for Lin, leading to the brief turnaround of a team that had lost 11 of 13 games.
Lin emerged on the NBA scene as a member of the New York Knicks with a 25-point, seven-assist performance off the bench against the then New Jersey Nets on Feb. 4, 2012.
Linsanity, as many people soon called it, was born.
Over his next five games – all starts – Lin tallied 136 points, the most by a player since the 1976 ABA-NBA merger. He recorded at least 20 points and seven assists in each of those contests as well, becoming the only player to do so since at least 1970. He guided that Knicks team to seven straight wins, mainly in the absence of Carmelo Anthony.
Perhaps his best game during that stretch came against the Lakers on a Friday night at Madison Square Garden when Lin dropped a career-high 38 points, plus seven assists.
During his senior year of high school, Lin led Palo Alto High to a 32-1 record and an upset of nationally ranked Mater Dei in the state title game.
Despite being named Northern California Division II Player of the Year, Lin did not receive a single athletic scholarship to play basketball at the collegiate level.
He instead attended Harvard University where he was named All-Ivy League Second Team during his sophomore season. The following year, Lin was the only NCAA Division I basketball player who ranked in the top 10 in his conference for points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage and three-point field goal percentage.
By the time his career was finished, Lin was the first player in the history of the Ivy League to record at least 1,450 points, 450 rebounds, 400 assists and 200 steals.
Speaking of the Ivy League …
Since 1979-80, there have been just 13 others players besides Lin hailing from the Ivy League to suit up in the NBA.
The list includes:
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Lin is one of four players who attended Harvard who have played in the NBA. The others are Wyndol Gray (1946-48, Boston Celtics), Saul Mariaschin (1947-48, Boston Celtics) and Ed Smith (1953-54, New York Knicks).
Lin excelled in the pick and roll orchestrating Mike D’Antoni’s offense in New York. In particular, he showed a knack for attacking and getting to the rim.
“My brand of basketball is attacking on the go, playmaking, I am a 0-100 player and I like to stay at 100,” Lin said. “I’m learning to have more composure and be more under control, but at the same time, be very aggressive. If you watch a Chris Paul or Tony Parker is they are always attacking but they are always under control.”
In a brief sample size with New York – 35 games – and during his first full season with Houston in 2012-13, Lin attempted nearly 40 percent of his field goals in the restricted area. That figure dipped to 34 percent last season, but his efficiency from the three-point line increased as he shot a career-high 35.8 percent.
In fact, Lin’s efficiency from beyond the arc has gone up each season.
2010-11: 20.0 percent
2011-12: 32.0 percent
2012-13: 33.9 percent
2013-14: 35.8 percent
“I think when I look back on not just this past year, but maybe the past two years, I think I’ve learned and grown a lot as a person and a basketball player,” Lin said.
Purple and Gold Everywhere
According to a 2010 census, Asians make up nearly 14 percent of the population in Los Angeles, but is one of the fastest growing ethnic groups.
And Lin is very well aware of how the fans will react when he suits up for his first game inside STAPLES Center. The unwavering support from the Asian community is something he welcomes.
“I’m no stranger to large Asian populations,” Lin said. “I’ve always said and I will always be grateful for their support, and I know how die-hard the fans can be and how supportive and enthusiastic they can be. That’s one thing I always appreciate is through the ups and the downs is the support of the Asian community.
While Lin was in Asia the last couple weeks, he also realized the magnitude of the Lakers global brand.
“It’s huge,” Lin said. “First, Kobe is an idol in Asia, obviously. Everything was red Rockets when I was first there. I came back, took my physical and everything was yellow. That was one thing I noticed. I was like: ‘Wow, that was fast.’”
A Fresh Start
For the 6-foot-3 guard from Northern California, the Linsanity era has been his defining mark during his brief four-year NBA career.
But he maintains he doesn’t want to recreate that moment, or live in the past. Rather he sees this opportunity with the Lakers to develop and grow into a more complete basketball player.
”My first year in Houston really taught me that,” Lin said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to be that player. Now, my goal is I’m not trying to be a player from the past. I’m trying to make history again. It’s not so much me trying to be something that happened beforehand. I’m looking to the future and trying to be a much better and bigger player than I was ever before.”
Despite a trying 2013-14 season for the Lakers, Lin is well aware of the expectations for Lakers fans. But playing in New York, in Houston and going through various stops in his career has prepared him. And he wholly embraces what he knows he can do as a player.
“I feel the least amount of pressure on my shoulders now than I ever have,” he said. “One thing I try to do is not let my circumstances dictate the pressure as a player. I don’t think I play well when I do put a lot of pressure on myself from an outside standpoint. I know what I want to accomplish as a player and what the right way to play is and as long as I do that, I can hold my head up high and be proud of myself.”