Jeremy Lin sees the possibilities born of the Brooklyn Nets’ strong late season push.
Despite a league-worst overall mark of 20-62, the Nets finished 11-13 over their last 24 games, with Lin and veteran center Brooks Lopez finally healthy and in the lineup together on a regular basis.
The end result is Brooklyn has entered the offseason with as much optimism for the upcoming season as the franchise has had in any recent season.
In addition, the Nets plan to be major players in summer free agency and could have as much as $33 million to lure a top-flight addition.
“I honestly don’t think it’s going to be that hard,” Lin said of attracting one of the top free agents. “First of all, it’s Brooklyn. It’s New York. Second of all, everyone can tell this culture is completely different. You can talk to the players. There’s a freshness, a different vibe, and what we did after the All-Star break will help.”
Lin predicted that combination will be enough to close the deal, and if need be, he and Lopez will be more than willing to offer their testimonials.
“Players are asking about us because they saw the way that Kenny [Atkinson] coached,” he said. “They saw how hard these guys played night-in and night-out, how unselfish we played. They want to be a part of that, so there’s already been a lot of interest. People are already asking questions.”
With Lin at the point and Lopez in the middle, the Nets will look to upgrade the other spots via the draft, free agency, and trades.
The Nets went 1-27 over one stretch win Lin was out of the lineup nursing a hamstring injury. In all, injuries limited him to just 37 games in his first season in New York since the days of Linsanity.
“Honestly, what I remember about the season is March on,” Lin said. “All that other stuff is like a blur now. I just remember playing with the guys at the end and how much fun that was, how much progress we made. But the more I think about it, it was really tough at times.”
But from March on, Lin would like to think the Nets established an identity they can hang their hats on going forward.
“We started to figure out who we were, what was going to be our recipe for success,” he added. “It’s hard to build an identity when you’re not seeing the results, but I felt like in the last stretch we were able to really figure out, ‘Hey, this is our blueprint.’”
Meanwhile, Lopez has described the season as “transformative,” with arguably one of the biggest changes coming in his style of play.
The veteran center turned himself into a modern “stretch five,” a center who can spread the defense by knocking down three-pointers and doing other damage away from the basket.
The style change alleviated any concerns Nets fans might have had about him and Lin being effective together, particularly in Atkinson’s ball-moving offense.
“I don’t know about value or anything like that,” Lopez said. “I’m happy to be here, like I’ve said time and again. I hope just with my off-the-court attributes, the way I’ve led, the way I’ve helped other players grow, I hope those were characteristics that really showed how important I am to this group.”
As for Lin, his decision to sign with Brooklyn is starting to look like everything he envisioned it could be.
“I know the role they want me to have,” said Lin, who finally finds himself cast in the regular roll of NBA starting point guard. “They want me to be the guy, they want the ball in my hands. So I don’t really struggle with that… They’ve never wavered from that.”