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Lin ready to lead Nets into new era

Well-Traveled Point Man Takes the Reins Here in Brooklyn

July 26, 2016 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Jeremy Lin doesn’t want to bring “Lin-Sanity” to Brooklyn. Instead, the veteran point guard is eager to prove he can lead the Nets back to relevance, and eventually, the playoffs. AP Photo
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“Lin-Sanity” was a well-chronicled phenomenon that played out across the East River at Madison Square Garden back in February of 2012.

To Jeremy Lin, himself, however, the memorable run was just a blur.

“Everything just happened overnight,” Lin recalled when asked about his headline-making, breathtaking run as the Knicks’ must-see attraction during his introductory press conference last Wednesday afternoon at Sunset Park’s HSS Training Center.

“When [Lin-sanity] first started, I am not going to lie, it was cool,” he added, fresh off inking a three-year, $36 million pact to be new Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson’s “quarterback” of the future. “Then it became a burden, because I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into.”

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For 12 games before the 2012 All-Star break, Lin averaged 22.5 points and 8.7 assists per game for New York, leading the Knicks to a 9-3 record while becoming a jersey-selling, seat-filling phenom at “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”

Atkinson, then a Knicks assistant, was at the forefront of the surge, working tirelessly with Lin to get the most out of the Harvard-educated playmaker.

But Lin’s success, coupled with all the attention he was receiving, didn’t sit so well with some of the Knicks’ more-established superstars (read Brooklyn-born forward Carmelo Anthony).

And when Lin’s game, which flourished under then-head coach Mike D’Antoni, didn’t seem as applicable to newly installed head man Mike Woodson’s plan, the Palo Alto, California native became expendable.

After a two-year stint in Houston, a year with the Los Angeles Lakers and last season’s memorable late-season playoff run in Charlotte, Lin is back in the Big Apple.

Only this time, he’s on the other side of that river, and on a team that is looking for him to lead, rather than follow.

“I am hoping I can take that next step as a player and hoping that I can help this team grow,” Lin said. “I want to make my teammates better and make the game easier for everybody. I guess that is what will define me as a player.”

Atkinson, who along with general manager Sean Marks welcomed 10 new players to the organization this summer, makes no bones about what he expects from his new point guard.

“Jeremy, as we all know, we had a great experience together,” Atkinson noted. “It was a great experience and we’re looking [to] him for leadership number one, number two is to play in the system that maybe is a little different from the ones he’s played in in the past.

“Obviously he’ll be our full-time point guard,” the first-time head coach added. “We’re looking forward to that and we’re going to challenge him on the defensive end and look for him to get better there.”

With former All-Star center Brook Lopez in place as the lone remnant from the Nets’ high-priced three-year playoff run upon their arrival in our fair borough, Lin lines up nicely as Brooklyn’s No. 2 option.

Only, he’ll be the one with the most responsibility, since the ball will be in Lin’s hands more often than at any point in his career since Lin-Sanity came and went 3 1/2 years ago.

“Now I have that chance to take a much bigger role and be a much bigger part,” Lin said.

“It is no surprise to anybody, if you look at the numbers my whole career, when I have the ball in my hands, when I play longer minutes, when I am more comfortable, when I am empowered, I play better.”

The Nets are banking on that, as well as Lin’s drawing power at the gate.

After averaging 17,000 fans per night for their first three seasons here in Brooklyn, the Nets saw their nightly average attendance dwindle to just over 15,000 during a dreadful 21-61 non-playoff campaign in 2015-16.

They said goodbye to the likes of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jarrett Jack and most recently Thaddeus Young, over the past two seasons, wiping clean the payroll record-setting slate that billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov had bankrolled in the hopes of delivering the franchise’s first NBA title.

Now, the Nets are focused on a more patient approach, allowing young players like Chris McCullough, Rondae-Hollis Jefferson, Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead to develop under Atkinson.

Lin will doubtlessly play a mentoring role to all the fresh blood on the Brooklyn roster, but he’ll also be responsible for getting Lopez his touches and building an on-the-floor chemistry with veterans like Greivis Vasquez and Luis Scola.

In other words, Lin will be Atkinson’s coach on the floor for the foreseeable future, making him the centerpiece of what promises to be a long rebuilding effort on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

As for a repeat of Lin-Sanity, the 27-year-old, six-year NBA veteran knows better than to try to live up to something that even he could not explain at the time, or years afterward.

“I will be myself but I don’t really draw too many comparisons to Lin-Sanity, the phenomenon,” he emphasized.

“I am just going to keep playing. People will always kind of compare me to that. In a lot of ways, not in a negative way or a way that I am offended, but it kind of dehumanizes me to refer to me as a phenomenon. I am going to be here, keep playing my game, do the best that I can and whatever you guys want to call it, that is up to you guys.”


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