Seven games into the season with the Charlotte Hornets might seem like too small a sample size, but it appears Jeremy Lin made the right choice this summer. After disappointing and inconsistent runs with the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers, the 6-foot-3 Lin joined the fifth team of his five-year career and thus far he’s flourished as one of head coach Steve Clifford’s star reserves.
The Hornets improved to 3-4 with a 104-95 road victory over Minnesota with Lin, swingman Jeremy Lamb, and forward Cody Zeller scoring 51 of the bench’s 55 points.
While the 27-year-old Lin’s overall field goal and three-point shooting percentages are down early, his 12.7 points per game is on pace to eclipse his work in Houston and L.A. the last two seasons.
And Lin’s even drawing praise from Clifford for his defense on Minnesota’s lethal shooter Kevin Martin.
"I kept looking in the fourth quarter (for a way to reinsert Lamb) but Jeremy Lin was really the one who did the best job on Kevin Martin," Clifford said to The Charlotte Observer.
"That (second five) group was playing well and Cody (Zeller) was giving them trouble running the floor and rolling. It was about that group playing well."
Lin drew the ire of former coaches Byron Scott and Kevin McHale for his lack of aggressiveness and poor play on the defensive end, which cost him valuable playing time and resulted in a much lower two-year, $4.37 million contract he signed with Charlotte in July than the $25 million deal he got from Houston in 2012.
But now Lin and Lamb have played so well there’s been some clamor about inserting one or both into the starting lineup, yet Clifford’s hesitant to switch up as he sees the stacked bench as a way to preserve the energy of starters like guard Kemba Walker and big man Al Jefferson.
"Hopefully (the starters) can play less minutes," Clifford said to The Observer. "You think about two years ago literally Kemba and Al were playing 40 to 42 minutes a night. That catches up to you. In many ways I believe that’s why Al got injured in the playoffs."
The Hornets have now won three of their last four games, and Clifford clearly doesn’t want to mess with the momentum his team’s gathered.
Charlotte will try to carry their excellent play and the league’s sixth-highest scoring bench against one of Lin’s old team’s Wednesday, the New York Knicks. New York’s also received a huge boost from their reserves, ranking No. 3 in the league with 45.9 points per game.