May 2016. High above ground, 30,000 feet thereabouts.
I sat on a plane, flying for a vacation with my wife. My wife fell asleep. I had nobody to talk to.
So what did I do? I started ranking NBA players. Not because there is any real value to it. But I love basketball. And you have to kill time doing something, right?
Here is a representative sampling of one portion of my rankings (these are far from scientific)
-George Hill, Thaddeus Young, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marcus Smart, Marvin Williams, Jeremy Lin, Kelly Olynyk, Elfrid Payton, Cory Joseph, Amir Johnson, Patrick Patterson
See where I am going with this?
Jeremy Lin is a good, solid player to have on a basketball team. He can be a low end starter on a good team, or a high end reserve. And there is no doubt about it.
Want proof Lin can be a critical piece for a winner. Don’t be lazy and simply look at last year. The Hornets were 48-34, and ranked 9th in both offense and defense: they were very good. Sure, they did not win their first round playoff series, but saying “they got bounced in the first round” is reductive. That was clearly a good team. And Lin was a major part of that. He played 26 minutes per game and despite not starting regularly, thrived when he did. He also played critical minutes in big games. Batum Lin Walker Zeller Williams lineups had a +8.8 Net Rating, when the team overall was only a +3.3.
Yes, Lin is no star. Far from it. But if the Nets brought in Amir Johnson of Patrick Patterson, nobody would be yelling that they made a transparent marketing move. Or that the player was awful, and that it showed the Nets are awful. Likely, they would say that the Nets did not get a great player, or a franchise shaper, but that they made a nice pickup.
Really, there is no reason to say anything different about Jeremy Lin. The Nets made a solid addition to their team by adding him, and seriously upgraded over the sad sack point guard group of a year ago.
So why does anyone judge it so differently. Why do people get so up in arms about Lin, in a way they do not about comparable players?
Without speaking with people about it individually, nobody can definitively say. However, it is likely the animus toward Lin comes from different places. Maybe it’s the attention he got as a Knick in 2012, and a persistent agenda to put him down because of that. Maybe it is because he made his way as a Knick, and Nets fans dislike the Knicks. And, yes: maybe for some, it is more nefarious, and relates to his ethnicity, or a belief that he is only well liked because of his ethnicity.
My take: forget all that. I never care where a player is from, what his ethnicity is, or where he played before. Nobody should. All that matters: how good is the player? What does the player project to be in the future? All players, be they African American, Caucasian, Asian American, or of the world’s 200+ countries, should be evaluated that precise way, without regard to their heritage, the way the media covers them, or anything else.
We do it with Patrick Patterson. We do it with George Hill. So we should do it with Jeremy Lin (note: I am not saying people should not admire and like Jeremy Lin and look to him as an example, whether or not they share his ethnicity. I am solely talking about played evaluation).
The counter to this of course for some is the elephant in the room: Lin undoubtedly is more marketable, and a boon for Brett Yormark and his staff, than are those players of similar playing ability. To deny that, yes, is to deny a fact.
But correlation is not causation. When the Nets inked Crabbe and Johnson to offer sheets, that made for four potential Nets (Lin and Lopez too) wth California roots. Nobody said “the Nets are obsessed with targeting California guys, for the common sense reason that correlation does not imply causation.
The same applies here. Lin is a solid basketball player. The Nets need solid basketball players. Lin is a solid point guard. The Nets desperately needed sold point guards. Signing Lin is a basketball transaction being made by Sean Marks for basketball reasons. Just because the signing is marketable does not mean its marketability CAUSED the signing. Lin is clearly no Kevin Durant, not close. If the Nets signed Durant, it would make them more marketable, but nobody would call marketing the CAUSE of the signing, just a coincidental byproduct. With Lin, that is also what we have. He is no Durant but the signing makes basketball sense irrespective of any marketing.
And when you consider Lin is making less money than Mozgov, Noah, Marvin Williams, Eric Gordon, Evan Turner, Rajon Rondo, Arron Afflalo, Ian Mahinmi, Jamal Crawford, and Jeff Green, barely more money than players like Jon Leuer, DJ Augustin, and Austin Rivers, his contract is an incredible value — be his name Jeremy Lin or Jeremy Jones.
Lastly, should Brett Yormark have commented on the marketing impact Lin has. No. Not when, given the Nets explicitly saying they did the Boston deal for brand based purposes, the Nets have a stigma for making a splash instead of the sound move of substance.
That does not mean that this is not the sound move of substance.
Jeremy Lin is a good basketball player who helps the Nets at a critical position, and position of huge need, who is on a value contract. Judge him through that prism. Your other prisms are lazy, or worse.