This is not Linsanity.
Jeremy Lin is back in New York — signing a three-year, $36-million contract with the Nets in June — but this isn’t like the last time he was in the city in 2012. Back then he was a phenom, a larger-than-life talent for the Knicks whose on-court exploits prompted headlines and sky-high expectations.
Lin — who was officially introduced in Brooklyn with five other off-season acquisitions at the team’s Sunset Park practice facility on July 20 — is a different player now. He’s grown up, refined his game, and is determined to make a difference with the Nets.
Lin doesn’t want to be a phenom. He just wants to be a good basketball player and he’s fairly certain he can do that in Brooklyn.
“In a lot of ways — not in a negative way or a way where I’m offended — it kind of dehumanizes me to refer to me as a phenomenon,” Lin said. “So I always kind of try and stay away from that. I’m going to be here. I’m going to keep playing my game, doing the best I can and whatever you guys want to call it, that’s up to you guys.”
In the grand scheme of Lin’s career, Linsanity was a flash in the pan.
It ended nearly as quickly as it began when Lin suffered a season-ending knee injury and Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni resigned. Lin was released from the team after the season and landed with the Houston Rockets via free agency.
Lin’s time in Houston wasn’t much of a success, nor was his time with the Los Angeles Lakers. Then, this season, something finally clicked in Charlotte.
Lin settled into a leadership role with the Hornets, averaging 11.7 points and three assists per game and helping the squad win its first postseason match in 14 years. It was that on-court leadership that led to the Nets’ off-season pursuit of Lin.
“No doubt about it. I think his leadership is what I saw every day,” first-year Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I think it’s his work ethic. I think it’s his intelligence. I think it’s his competitiveness. Obviously he’ll lead with his voice, but he’s really the type of guy that’s going to show the way with his actions.”
Atkinson — who was an assistant for the Knicks during the Linsanity days — said he expects Lin to be the Nets’ everyday point guard from the get-go. It’s an opportunity Lin has waited years for, and a big reason he decided to come to Brooklyn in the first place.
He’s well aware that this team is a work in progress, but he’s anxious to be part of that effort.
“For me, the way I was looking at free agency was like when you invest in a start-up company,” Lin said. “I believe in this. I believe in what we’re capable of coming. We’re not there yet, we all know that and that’s okay.”
As far as the Nets are concerned, Lin is a veteran. He’s a proven leader and a proven winner — even without Linsanity — and a much-needed presence on a squad with plenty of inexperience on its roster.
Lin isn’t trying to prove anything this season. Instead, he’s trying to build something. Lin has bounced around the league since his time with the Knicks and now, finally, feels like he can put down roots in Brooklyn.
If he can help improve the franchise along the way, even better.
“I have the chance to take a much bigger role and a much bigger part,” Lin said. “I’m hoping I can take that next step as a player. I’m hoping I can help this team grow. I just want to make my teammates better. I want to make game easy for everybody and I feel like that’s kind of what would define me as a player.”