The NBA freakin’ sucks sometimes. First there was the Gordon Hayward injury on opening night and now Nets’ star Jeremy Lin is out for the season with a ruptured patella tendon. For a game that can bring so much joy it can be equally as cruel. There was so much excitement going into the regular season for Lin, especially around his budding backcourt partnership with D’Angelo Russell. Before being forced to leave the floor the combination looked great with Lin contributing 18 points and 4 assists in 25 minutes of action.
What does this mean now for Brooklyn? Well, one positive from the night was the play of Russell who in only 30 minutes put up 30 points; including going 4/8 from the arc, racking up 3 rebounds, 5 assists and a steal. Russell will likely bear the greatest burden in Lin’s absence. His offense can’t be questioned but he’ll also need to step up in terms of leadership and playmaking where Lin is revered. When it comes to the distribution of minutes, one name stands out, Allen Crabbe. We debated on The Brooklyn Buzz podcast whether Crabbe would ultimately supercede Lin in the rotation by the end of the season and by matter of circumstance that’s going to be the case for the foreseeable future. Others will need to step up too; expect a minutes increase for the likes of Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris. Isaiah Whitehead who was inactive on opening night may even be brought into the reformed guard rotation. In the absence of Lin last year through his many injuries Whitehead was thrust into the starting position and while his form was patchy (as you’d expect from any rookie point guard) he certainly showed some signs that he can hold his own in the league.
Lin’s contract is also an interesting point of discussion. He has a player option for next year before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2019. The money owed to him is by no means lofty ($12 million this year, and another $12.5 million next year) but you’d think an opposing team looking to strengthen their bench would have pounced on that had Lin been healthy. The good thing is Lin is valued highly by the Nets and will play a role in the future despite his injury, as evidenced by GM Sean Marks’ comments:
“We feel awful that the injury will cost him the season, however our entire organization will be there to support Jeremy in every way possible throughout his recovery. Jeremy remains an important part of this team and will continue to contribute in a leadership role.”
The hype for this Nets team was real going into the new season with some (including Lin himself) predicting them to push for a playoff spot. Those expectations will have to be tempered. For a team on the rebuild, the most they can hope for now is to spoil Cleveland’s party and make the pick the acquired from the Celtics in the Kyrie trade as bad as possible. Coach Kenny has plenty of things on his table including acclimating a heap of new pieces to his system, this Lin injury just makes his job even harder. Expect plenty of trademark Brooklyn Grit from Lin and the Nets throughout his recovery as well as the team’s season as a whole.