NBA AM: Nets’ Rebuild Begins With Lin Running Point
The Brooklyn Nets’ rebuilding era begins with Jeremy Lin running the point. Is he up to the challenge?
The previous Brooklyn Nets front office regime, led by Billy King, swung for the fences in a series of moves back in 2012 and 2013 by trading for aging veterans Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The deals, in theory, led to some title talk at the time. However, the reality is that the moves didn’t result in anything remotely close to a championship and in the aftermath, the team was left with a cupboard bare of draft picks and a roster largely devoid of above-average talent.
Enter new general manager Sean Marks and his detailed vision for the future.
Marks hired Kenny Atkinson as head coach and the two put together a spirited effort over the summer in attempting to rebuild the roster. Brooklyn attempted to lure restricted free agent guard Tyler Johnson away from Miami with a four-year, $50 million deal. Most believed the Nets had a strong chance in ultimately landing Johnson, but in a surprise twist future Hall of Fame guard Dwyane Wade bolted Miami for Chicago and the HEAT subsequently matched Brooklyn’s offer.
But at the beginning of free agency, the Nets had already secured their floor general to begin the rebuilding era by signing veteran Jeremy Lin to a three-year, $36 million deal.
Lin was coming off a successful season in Charlotte, where he averaged 11.7 points, 3 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 78 appearances (13 starts). Lin turned heads in those 13 starts by averaging 17.5 points, four rebounds and 4.5 assists in 34.4 minutes.
Brooklyn is banking on Lin being able to immediately fill a leadership role and former All-Star center Brook Lopez was one of the players in the contingent during the guard’s free agency recruitment.
Lopez believes Lin was exactly what the Nets needed moving forward and says the guard will make things easier for him on the inside.
“We were showing the positives of playing out here,” Lopez said on Lin’s recruitment, according to Mike Mazzeo of ESPN. “Obviously, he knows that firsthand from playing with the Knicks, but just how we can benefit from him and how he can benefit from us — that sort of symbiotic relationship. We just kept harping on the differences in our organization and the franchise as a whole from the top down.
“It’s so huge for me, just having a guy who’s such a downhill driver. He draws so much attention that it makes it easier for everyone else on the floor since he’s such a willing passer.”
Lin reportedly eyed the New Orleans Pelicans and had exploratory interest from the Houston Rockets before accepting Brooklyn’s pitch and the 28-year-old veteran is relishing the opportunity to lead a franchise.
“I’m just embracing it,” Lin said of his current opportunity. “There are days where I come back from practice and the only thing I do is I just start thanking God for this opportunity. It just feels good to be a leader, because when you say something there’s a different level of respect and guys look to you to lead.
“That’s kind of what I’ve been my whole life, is the starting point guard and the leader of the team, and for me to be back in that position, I’m just like, ‘Man, this is really cool.’ And it feels natural again. The last three years, I’ve kind of been a backup or lost in the mix. Here, everything just seems so much more clear.”
Brooklyn finished last season 21-61 and are playing under their sixth head coach since 2012.
Splitting the Difference
The Atlanta Hawks announced Tuesday that veteran center Tiago Splitter would miss at least the next four weeks with a grade two hamstring strain. Splitter reportedly suffered the injury at a recent practice and a MRI confirmed the extent of the injury.
If the current timeline holds up Splitter, 31, will miss the beginning of the regular season. Keep in mind that Splitter only appeared in 36 contests last season before undergoing season ending hip surgery back in February. Overall, Splitter has missed 95 games over the past three campaigns.
The Hawks acquired Splitter in 2015 from the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for a protected 2017 second round draft pick and the draft rights to Georgios Printezis. The Spurs were looking to create salary cap space in order to sign All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, while the Hawks were looking for interior depth behind Al Horford in the rotation.
But the trade hasn’t panned out for the Hawks as planned. Aldridge led the Spurs to the league’s second-best record in 2016 and Horford is now in Boston via free agency. However, Splitter was still expected to play a nightly role behind recently signed center Dwight Howard.
For now, the Hawks have to play the waiting game and see if Splitter can ever get back to full strength. The veteran, owed $8.6 million this season, will be an unrestricted free agent next summer when the salary cap is expected to rise north of $100 million.
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