Count the Lakers among the teams second-guessing themselves for not pursuing Jeremy Lin a little harder.
They never had him under contract and aren’t in the regretful state of mind of Golden State or Houston, but they discussed signing him two months ago when he was a free agent.
Lin, 23, was waived by the Warriors in early December partly to create salary-cap space to offer a contract to free-agent center DeAndre Jordan. Now with New York, Lin lit up the Lakers for 38 points and seven assists in the Knicks’ 92-85 victory Friday at Madison Square Garden.
“I knew who [Lin] was because when he was floating out there, I know Mitch had some interest in him and he brought his name up to me,” Lakers Coach Mike Brown said, referring to General Manager Mitch Kupchak.
How close were the Lakers to signing Lin?
“I have no clue,” Brown said. “We brought up a million names. This was back before we had the team together. I know that Mitch liked the guy and thought highly of him, but I didn’t know anything about him back then.”
The Lakers were not able to sign Lin after he was waived by Golden State because the Houston Rockets put in a waiver claim for him and were rewarded his rights because they had a worse record than the Lakers last season. The Lakers did not put in a waiver claim for Lin after he was cut by Houston and he was snapped up by New York.
He has averaged 28.5 points and eight assists in his last four games with New York, the biggest outburst of his career. He averaged 2.6 points in 29 games with Golden State last season.
“He’s in the right system,” Brown said of the Knicks’ run-and-gun offense. “Maybe if he’s on another team, he doesn’t have the success because he doesn’t have the freedom that he has here offensively. It’ll be interesting if he can keep it when [Amare] Stoudemire and Carmelo [Anthony] come back.”
Team executives from Lin’s recent past are already expressing dismay at letting him go.
“We should have kept [Lin]. Did not know he was this good,” Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey said in a Q&A session with fans on Twitter.
Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob was remorseful in an interview with San Francisco radio station KNBR.
“I would be lying if I thought … he’d be this good [and] all of a sudden explode on the scene,” Lacob said, according to the New York Post. “It’s a great, perfect situation where he got an amazing opportunity. None of the other guards in New York were playing well. So I give him all the credit in the world, and obviously we wish we had him.”
Lin, 23, is the NBA’s first American player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent. He played at Harvard after getting no athletic scholarship offers out of Palo Alto High.
“It’s a first,” Lakers forward Metta World Peace said an hour before tipoff. “It’s just not normal to see an Asian American in the NBA. It’s great.”
What did he know about Lin before this game?
“I know he used to miss layups on the fastbreak at Golden State. I know he used to turn the ball over at half-court,” World Peace said. “He was trying to find himself. He must have had a lot of pressure on him. Now, he’s playing ball.”
Then World Peace tried to create some humor.
“Yeah, we talked about him,” World Peace said. “We think he needs a better haircut. I don’t like that style. We’re in New York, the fashion capital. You’re a star now.
“Put down the nerdy Harvard book glasses. Put on some black shades with some leather pants. Change your style. Put down that law book. Stop reading the New York Times.
“Come to practice with your pants sagging and just tell them, ‘I don’t feel like practicing.’ Come to practice with a cigar lit.”