Jeremy Lin’s Hornets vs Bulls Live Game Recap
OCTOBER 20, 2015/JLINFORUM
Jeremy Lin & Kemba Walker
Tonight the Hornets beat a Rose-less Chicago Bulls in their 6th pre-season game 86-94 thanks to the combination of Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin. This was the first time in history that a Charlotte NBA team wins 6 games in pre-season, so far undefeated. During the day we weren’t sure if Lin would play due to illness. For those of you concerned about Lin’s health he didn’t look sick at all tonight, as soon as I saw him in the pre-game shoot-around I knew he would play. In addition, it seemed like all the Hornets players, including Roberts, were healthy except for MKG who will be missing the rest of the season due to injury.
Tonight’s Starting Lineup
Clifford mentioned before the game that in these last 3 matches he will start using his season rotation more and more. This makes sense because you want as many reps as you can get with the same guys on the court. Tonight’s starting lineup consisted of Walker, Batum, Williams, Zeller and Jefferson. As I was watching the game this lineup seemed a bit off. Williams was getting lost in defense and Zeller, who has been great in the pre-season, took a back-seat in this lineup. In other words, this lineup doesn’t seem to bring the best out of these players. Which brings to question if this will be the starting lineup during the season. More about this later on.
At the beginning of the game we had a big scare. Walker drove to the paint and mid-way he just stopped. The whole play just suddenly stopped even though the ball was still in play as Walker started limping to the bench and just kneeled with his head down for at least 2-3 minutes. It looked very serious and like he was in extreme pain, however before the 1st quarter was over he was back in the bench and came back in the game in the 2nd quarter. Sadly I can’t say the same about Lamb who appeared to have also twisted his ankle. However, he didn’t seem to be in much pain so I don’t expect him to miss any games even though he never came back in the game. Lamb’s injury opened the opportunity for Daniels, a former Rocket, who failed to impress tonight.
As Kemba went to the locker room to get checked out, Lin checked in for the first time as a Hornets to the locals. And to my big surprise he got a pretty nice “ovation”, if you could call it that, as he checked in. This happened once again when Lin checked in at the end of the third quarter. It seems clear to me that Lin is already a fan favorite in Charlotte.
Lin didn’t waste any time to impress his new fans. As soon as he came in he made a quick lay-up and gave an assist to Jefferson in his first minute of play. The biggest difference I saw when Lin came in the game was his quickness. He would just move so quick in the PnR and always looked for the right play. Lin finished with 18 points displaying his accuracy from 3 by shooting 1-1 and his versatility by hitting mid-jumpers, layups and floaters. If the shot wasn’t there he found his teammates for open shots, sadly a lot of those were missed. Lin finished with 5 assists (would’ve easily been 10).
However, we all know Lin can do this in the right system or giving the opportunity and freedom to play his game. His offense didn’t surprise me, his defense did. I know Lin is not as bad in defense as others make it seem, but I could tell how much he has improved his defense tonight. He was responsible for at least 3 deflections and 1 steal. In addition, he grabbed 8! rebounds and 2 of those were offensive rebounds. He was just all over the floor. The key for me was in the last stretch when Kemba, Lin and Batum were in the backcourt and Lin was given the responsibility to defend Butler who was lighting it up at the beginning of the game. Lin did a phenomenal job on Butler. I recall one play where Butler got a fake-screen to get the ball in the post, Lin fought through and instead of getting behind Butler he quickly got in-front to prevent the entry pass and the bulls play got broken off.
In terms of the Hornets as a whole, I like this team. Defensively there is still a lot to work on, and there are some lineups that just don’t seem to work well. In my opinion, the lineup at the end of the game is the lineup that will most likely start and finish games with an interchangeable 4 between Williams and Zeller. Williams is a better 3 point shooter and helps open the floor, but Zeller is the better defensive player and rebounder. So, it all will depend on the game’s matchup, other than that, Kemba/Lin/Batum/Jefferson are a set thing for me. The only other person that could start instead of Lin is Lamb, but he has yet to impress me much and I think Roberts can do a good job coming off the bench as long as you have Lin or Kemba with him in the backcourt.
Other than that, it was a great game to watch live. Lin did his thing and the Hornets got their 6th win, still undefeated.
We have seen glimpses of Lin’s on-court leadership in the last 3 years. However, these skills have been muted by superstars like Harden, McHale, Kobe, Scott and even Parsons. Tonight, Lin was in control of both the offense and defense. He was outspoken, giving plays and communicating with his teammates. This was great to see. It shows how comfortable and free he feels with his new team and how much this group is coming together. I didn’t see him taking the clipboard out of Clifford’s hands though, which is a good thing cause it might mean that Clifford knows what he is doing, not like *cough*Mchale*cough*.
Like I said at the beginning, there was little interactions between players before the game apart from the casual low fives thru the drills. The game started slow but Lin was outspoken when he was on the floor. Kemba and Lin seem to be building a great bond together. When Kemba was kneeling down in front of the bench Lin touched his back before standing up to substitute him in the game. Also, when Jefferson made a lay-up to extend the Hornet’s lead in the fourth quarter Lin and Kemba high-fived and were hugging and laughing as they walked to the bench after a Bull’s timeout.
It’s these little things that gives me the assurance that this team will be special. No egos, just team basketball. Even when mistakes were made, everyone seemed up-beat to make the next play count. In addition, one thing that I noticed was that even when the shots were not failing, they kept moving the ball. A lot of times when a team is struggling to make shots someone, usually the “best” player, tries to take the weight of the team upon himself. The Hornets didn’t fall into that trap and kept playing team-ball and won at the end.
What can I say… Have you ever seen the sun come out after a very stormy, cloudy day? Well, this is what it feels like. To compare Clifford with the likes of McHale and Scott is doing Clifford a disservice. This guy is a player’s coach. He was always talking to the players throughout plays, and more importantly, encouraged them after making a mistake. He empowers his players to give the best of themselves.
There was one moment that really caught my intentions and earned him some points in my book. During a play Williams went up for the lay-up and was fouled, but no one called it. On the other end the Bulls scored and the Hornets took a timeout. At that moment Clifford was furious, asking the closest referee why the last play wasn’t a foul. Afterwards he started yelling at the other two referees on the other side of the court, “that was a foul!” he kept repeating it to the point that I was surprised he didn’t get a technical. I loved it though. He cares for his players and is not shy to defend them. In addition, out of almost every time-out there was a play drawn that was NOT called Iso-Harden… That can only be a good thing. And speaking about the Rockets.
The Lin of 3 Years Ago
About 2-3 years ago I went to a Rockets vs Hornets game to see Lin for the first time live. Sadly it was a huge disappointment. I think he played less than 15 minutes and only scored maybe 4 points. During that time I wrote a post about Lin’s body language and how sad he looked on the court. He seemed to always look over his shoulder every time he made a mistake expecting to be pulled out of the game. But not tonight, not with the Hornets. Lin looked completely different tonight. Even after his only turnover, he just began backpedaling like nothing had happened. Clifford didn’t even blink. No teammate looked at him disappointed or wondering what he was thinking. It was just one play, it’s humanity, it’s basketball. Lin is not treated like an overrated Asian basketball player with the Hornets. He is treated like any basketball player in the NBA. And THAT, my friends, is finally nice to see after these last three years.
Not only that, but Lin is a much better player today than he has ever been. You hear all the time people talking about how you can’t expect Linsanity again. My question is, isn’t 18 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists in 25 minutes shooting 6-8 with only 1 turnover better than Linsanity? Not only that, but Lin’s defense is much more improved, his 3 point shooting, his mid-range jumper, his left, layups and defense are way better than Linsanity. In addition, his turnover ratio is much lower than 3 years ago. It’s true, Linsanity won’t happen again, but I think Jeremy Lin is much better than Linsanity.
What Does the Future Hold
The future seems bright, but it’s still only pre-season. The one thing I can say is that I can’t think of any other team where Lin would’ve had the freedom he has with the Hornets. This is a team and a coaching staff that believes in Lin’s abilities and game. You can’t ask for anything better than that. The absence of MKG hurts, but this team has the potential to make it to the playoffs and make it past the 1st round as long as they play as a team. What I saw today was very encouraging. From the chemistry between the players, the leadership of the coach and the style of play, this team can be very special.
Charlotte’s Downtown for those that haven’t seen it yet.
After everything Rose has been thru, it was nice to see him taking shots before the game even though he didn’t play.