NBA

NBA PM: Lakers Land Lin at Perfect Time

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Lakers Land Lin at Perfect Time: What a lot of NBA prospects don’t realize in the pre-draft process is that all of the workouts and interviews they do don’t just impact where they are going to land on draft night. Teams are often doing research and putting together files on players for when they hit free agency or become available in trades years later as well.

The Los Angeles Lakers’ acquisition of Jeremy Lin from the Houston Rockets after the moratorium was lifted is a prime example. The Lakers have had eyes for Lin for years now, trying to sign him before he landed with the Golden State Warriors and also putting in a claim for his rights when he was on waivers afterward, only to see him ultimately land with the New York Knicks where Linsanity was born.

Lin’s career has undergone a string of reality checks since that point. He spent the last two years with the Rockets. He came in as a top target for the Rockets that offseason, but his role decreased with the additions of James Harden and Dwight Howard. Toward the end of his tenure with the team, he was coming off of the bench behind overseas import Patrick Beverley and had his jersey number used during the recruiting pitch for Carmelo Anthony like he wasn’t even on the team anymore.

The Rockets may have fallen out of love with Lin, but the Lakers were eager to take him off of their hands. Having no issue with paying the final year of his contract, which only counts from $8.3 million against the cap but actually costs the team closer to $15 million, the Lakers have finally landed the player they’ve sought after for years. The path that kept Lin away from the Lakers couldn’t have prepared him better for the situation he’s going into with them now.

“I’m a more mature person,” Lin said at his introductory press conference. “That’s one thing I’ve experienced. I’ve gone through the highs and lows of an NBA career in the spotlight. Going through New York has prepared me and given me a different perspective, then going to Houston where things settled down and there wasn’t as much spotlight, now coming to L.A. where there’s a bigger market and spotlight, hopefully I’m able to handle it better each and every year. One of the ways I want to handle it is not letting it affect my play. Now, more than ever, I’ve learned to just play for God and ignore everything on the outside.

“It’s been an up and down year for me. I think when I look back on not just this past year but the past two years I’ve learned and grown a lot as a person, Christian and basketball player. From the minute I stepped into Houston to now, I’m definitely a much more complete player. I’ve learned how to do a lot of things I haven’t had to do before, playing off the ball, cutting, really challenging myself on my weaknesses I’ve tried to improve on.”

Acquiring Lin was clearly a contingency plan for the Lakers, as they went into the offseason with aspirations of luring the top free agents on the market to join forces with Kobe Bryant. However, when they missed out, they quickly went to forming a team of guys like Lin who have been counted out and have something to prove. They put in the winning bid for Carlos Boozer after he was amnestied by the Chicago Bulls and also signed Ed Davis, along with re-signing Jordan Hill, Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson and Ryan Kelly. They may not be the most talented team on paper, but there may not be a team in the league with a bigger chip on their shoulder.

Bryant is determined to finish his career on a high note and shock his doubters one more time. He’s already started reaching out to his new teammates to get them on the same page.

“We’d exchange texts,” Lin said of his communication with Bryant. “I was in Shanghai at the time, we’ve talked a little bit here or there. The one thing he told me is we have a lot of work to do and I think that’s 100 percent accurate. As long as we come in with that mindset of really having to work and earn everything, I think we’ll be okay.

“I think [the chemistry with Kobe] will be great. I’ve had the opportunity to play with a few really great players. I’ll be able to learn a lot from him; he’s been there, done it and won at the highest level. I’m excited to learn from him, to be honest, and see how he approaches things. I’ve made my own structure and rhythm to what my workouts look like for the season, but I’d like to see what his look like as well.”

Lin also mentioned Lakers veteran point guard Steve Nash as someone he is excited to learn from, as he has studied his game in the past and tried to emulate him. He’s even open to the idea of playing behind him or even off of the ball with him in the case that Nash has a resurgent year and is able to contribute more than he has so far in his injury-plagued two-year Laker career.

“If you ask any player, they’ll believe they’re capable of starting,” Lin said. “If there’s anything I’ve learned this year it’s not about who starts, it’s more about who finishes and how you play with the time you’re given. That’s probably one of the biggest things I’ve learned this past year. I believe I can start for a NBA team and help that team win. As a competitor I would obviously love to, but that’s not me coming in and saying I need this or that. I just want to be a part of the team.

“My approach won’t change. I think my approach shouldn’t ever change. It should just be to be on attack mode all the time because that’s who I am as a player. Regardless of his health or anyone else’s health, I’m going to be on the attack. One thing I thought worked good in Houston was when I played with Pat Beverley. I’d like to play with Steve Nash… I think that’d be really fun.”

The decision on how playing time is split up and what combinations are used will eventually be made by whoever the Lakers tap as their next head coach. They are currently the only team in the NBA without a coach in place. They made it clear from the start that they were going to take their time and used their head coaching vacancy as a part of their recruiting efforts for free agents like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Chris Bosh among others. Now, even without any star’s voice other than Bryant’s to really take into consideration, they continue to take their time and be methodical with their process.

Longtime Laker Byron Scott, who has been a head coach with the Brooklyn Nets, New Orleans Pelicans and Cleveland Cavaliers, has been the perceived favorite for some time and recently had another interview with the team. However, the fact that they have yet to hire him has created speculation that they may be going in another direction.

With training camp still a couple of months away and no other team looking for a coach, the Lakers could really drag this thing out another couple of weeks and re-evaluate candidates they previously ruled out now that they know what their roster looks like. The team is basically set, outside of perhaps a couple signings for the veteran’s minimum.

No matter who gets put in charge on the sidelines, the timing couldn’t be better for Lin to finally land on the Lakers after multiple failed attempts to acquire him. He’s basically auditioning again, which may not be ideal for him at this stage of his career, but he’s doing so for a team that has wanted him for years and has nothing prohibiting them from keeping him long-term should he flourish like they’re hoping he will. He’s going to have every opportunity to showcase his full repertoire in this contract year and doesn’t have overwhelming expectations for the first time since the Linsanity storm.

“To be honest I have the least amount of pressure, feel the least amount of pressure than I ever have,” Lin said. “I’m trying not to let my situation as a player dictate my play. I know what I want to accomplish as a player and how I want to play. As long as I do that, I can hold my head high.”

Cavaliers Sign Wiggins, Harris: The Cleveland Cavaliers have signed their 2014 NBA Draft picks, Andrew Wiggins and Joe Harris, to contracts, Cavaliers general manager David Griffin announced today from Cleveland Clinic Courts. Per league policy, terms of the contracts were not released.

Wiggins was the first overall pick in the June draft. An early entry candidate from Kansas University, Wiggins, 19, was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year and First-Team All-League in his only year at Kansas. In 35 contests with the Jayhawks last year, the 6’8, 194-pound guard averaged 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.0 block in 32.8 minutes per game. In four games during the 2014 NBA Summer League, Wiggins averaged a team-high 15.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks in 29.9 minutes per game.

Harris was selected 33rd overall after playing four years at Virginia where he was named Second Team All-ACC as a senior and First Team All-ACC as a junior. The 6’6, 225-pound guard averaged 12.6 points and 3.8 rebounds in 30.3 minutes for his career at Virginia (135 games). In four games during the 2014 NBA Summer League, Harris averaged 7.8 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 24.6 minutes per game.

Once rookies are officially signed like Wiggins and Harris now are, they cannot be traded for 30 days. Wiggins has been at the center of trade rumors involving Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love. His signing does not mean that trade talks are off, in fact it makes a trade easier to consummate as he goes from not counting for anything financially as an unsigned rookie to now $5.5 million. A trade involving Wiggins could still be agreed to in principle, just not made official until August 24 at the earliest. The Cavaliers, at the urging of LeBron James, are hot in pursuit of Love and may have to part with Wiggins in order to land him. However, the Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors are also firmly in the mix with offers that are comparable to what Cleveland can give.

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About Yannis Koutroupis

Yannis Koutroupis

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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