Jeremy Lin is back in the Lakers' starting lineup

In a season of ups and downs, including a healthy scratch in January, Jeremy Lin logs a 29-point game Sunday

What a strange orbit Jeremy Lin has taken to where he is now — back in the Lakers' starting lineup.

He lost his job after 20 games, and was benched an entire game in January, but was promoted back to starter status Monday by Lakers Coach Byron Scott.

Reporters were the ones to break the news to Lin, who smiled when told of it.

"Oh, I didn't even know," he said. "I'm surprised. I just want to keep trying to build on everything."

Lin will join rookie Jordan Clarkson in the backcourt, giving the Lakers an unusual lineup of two starting point guards. Veteran shooting guard Wayne Ellington will go to the bench.

"The way we want to play is really kind of getting up and down the floor," Scott said. "If we rebound the ball, we can get the ball into one of those guys' hands, the other guy fills the lane. It makes us better offensively, as far as we don't have one guy dominating the ball. Both of these guys can make passes, both of them can beat you off the dribble, they can create shots for themselves and their teammates."

Lin acknowledged this season was "sometimes" difficult, adding: "You've got to sacrifice. Everybody has a different role, and it changes."

He was acquired from Houston as a salary dump last July, the Rockets successfully tempting the Lakers by including a first-round draft pick as well. He has 14 games to show his worth before becoming a free agent in July. Wherever he lands, Lin, 26, will take a substantial pay cut from the $14.9 million he made this season.

He was demoted to reserve status in December primarily because Scott didn't like his defense, and when Lin slumped on offense, notably missing all 10 of his shots against Washington, Scott made journeyman Ronnie Price the starter.

Lin quietly dropped to third string and didn't even play in a January road game against San Antonio. It was the first time in almost three years he was a healthy scratch.

Scott liked Lin's game Sunday against Philadelphia — 29 points, five assists and five rebounds — though he didn't pin the lineup switch to that.

"That was something I had planned on doing," he said. "It had nothing to do with [Sunday] night, but [it] made it a little bit easier to throw him in there, because he played so well."

Forward Ryan Kelly will also join the starting unit, replacing Jordan Hill, Scott said.

Wesley Johnson and Tarik Black will keep starting in the frontcourt for now.

Scott staying home

Scott politely ended a news conference before Sunday's game because he was choked up while talking about his mother's recent death.

He spoke more about it Monday.

"It's a very difficult time for myself and my family, but I know she's in a much better place and she's not in any pain anymore. So that's one thing I have some comfort in," he said. "The coaching staff and the players have made it a little bit easier. But those moments when you're alone and you're at home or with your significant other, it just pops in your mind and kind of stays in your mind."

Dorothy Scott was 72 when she died last week after a long illness.

Scott will attend funeral services this week in Southern California and miss games Tuesday at Oklahoma City and Wednesday at Minnesota. He will rejoin the Lakers for their game Friday at Toronto.

LAKERS VS. THUNDER

When: Tuesday, 5 p.m. PDT.

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena.

On the air: TV: TWC SportsNet, TWC Deportes; Radio: 710, 1330.

Records: Lakers 18-50, Thunder 40-30.

Record vs. Thunder: 0-2.

Update: Thanks to Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City has maintained slight breathing room over Phoenix and New Orleans for the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot. Westbrook has averaged a sublime 31.6 points, 11.3 assists and 9.7 assists since the All-Star break. Kevin Durant has played only 27 games and was shut down indefinitely last week because of continued soreness in his foot. Thunder forward Serge Ibaka is out at least three more weeks after undergoing knee surgery.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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