With Kobe Bryant out for the rest of the 2014-2015 NBA season, Los Angeles Lakers point guard Jeremy Lin appeared poised to become a more integral part of the Lakers scoring production. In the last five games, Lin has struggled from the field, but he could be poised for some breakout efforts before the All-Star Break.
The Lakers travel to Orlando to face the lowly Magic on Friday night, and then move on to Cleveland to face the red-hot Cavaliers. Before the All-Star Break, L.A. will also host the Denver Nuggets, travel to Portland to face the Trail Blazers, and then host the Brooklyn Nets. In five games against the Magic, Nuggets, and Blazers, Lin has averaged 12.5 points per game, an increase over his 10.4 scoring average.
Every little bit helps for Lin, who hasn’t been much of a boost for the lowly Lakers. Lin has shot a career-low 42.1 percent on a team with a 13-36 record.
Things have been particularly rough lately. Lin has converted just 11 of his 39 shot attempts (28.2 percent) since Jan. 25. The 26-year-old has been through slumps before, but this was supposed to be different, considering Bryant’s absence would open more shooting opportunities, and oft-injured former starter Ronnie Price has been benched by head coach Byron Scott.
In recent games, Lin has taken a back seat to rookie Jordan Clarkson, who has responded with increased minutes by averaging 12.6 points over six games.
The numbers in 2014-2015 are a far cry from his effort with the New York Knicks in 2011-2012, when Lin was one of the hottest sports stories in the Big Apple during the “Linsanity” craze. Lin would go on to average 14.6 points per game and 6.2 assists, numbers he would not replicate in two seasons with the Houston Rockets and after 48 games with the Lakers. In his return to Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Lin took just three shots, converting just a seven-foot shot.
The drop in production should cause Lin some concern, given he is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. His future with the Lakers beyond this season seems unlikely after Scott benched him in December in favor of Price. In a meeting with the San Antonio Spurs on Jan. 23, Scott sat Lin for the entire game.
Lin played his best basketball with the Lakers in November. He averaged 13.1 points and 5.0 assists, while shooting 48.1 percent from the field, all of which are higher than his career averages. The following month, his playing time decreased, and he saw his scoring average nearly cut in half.
Sean Deveney of the Sporting News listed Lin among 15 players who could be dealt at the trade deadline. Lin has a salary of $14.9 million this season, and his expiring contract will be difficult to offload, even with the season more than half over.
There may still be some teams who could use a guard with Lin’s unique skill set for a postseason run, but it would probably be a stretch to assume he would play many meaningful minutes.
The Lakers are in rebuilding mode, and could use draft picks heading into the offseason.
An IB Times staff reporter contributed to this report.