The Lakers rolled into North Carolina and were reminded of a different type of farewell.
It was time to reflect on Jeremy Lin, not Kobe Bryant.
After oscillating in and out of the Lakers’ lineup last season, Lin has been a steady reserve since signing a two-year, $4.4-million contract with the Charlotte Hornets.
Nobody will be bowled over by his stats and he is far removed from his two-month statistical spree with New York, but he seems happy.
“I have a lot of people saying, ‘Man, you’re smiling a lot more on the court.’ I am having fun out here,” Lin confirmed Monday after scoring 13 points and adding four assists in the Hornets’ 108-98 victory over the Lakers.
Lin has a defined role in Charlotte, something he didn’t always have with the Lakers. He lost his starting spot last year after only 20 games and was even benched an entire game in January, the first time in almost three years he was a healthy scratch.
Lakers Coach Byron Scott didn’t like Lin’s defense and found less use for him after Lin slumped on offense, notably missing all 10 of his shots against Washington.
Scott made journeyman Ronnie Price the starting point guard for a while, but Lin was promoted back to starter in March, not long after Price sustained a season-ending elbow injury.
Reporters were the ones to break the news to Lin, who smiled when told of it.
“Oh, I didn’t even know,” he said at the time. “I’m surprised.”
Lin had some games of note — 29 points, five rebounds and five assists against Philadelphia in March — but his stats didn’t live up to his salary. He averaged 11.2 points and 4.6 assists.
Lin was a class act in departing, even sending thank-you notes to reporters who covered the team, a true rarity in the NBA.
He never meshed with Bryant on the court in Los Angeles but, like seemingly everybody this season, had kind words for his former teammate.
“I told him during the game, ‘Man, I’m happy for you. I hope you’re at peace because you deserve what you’re getting,’” Lin said.
Lin still thinks about Los Angeles. Too many friends there not to miss it.
But his Lakers days seem far from his mind, a lost season replaced by a more promising one for him and his new team.
“We’re in the playoff hunt. Obviously it’s good to be back on the winning side of things,” he said before referencing Charlotte Coach Steve Clifford. “I want to keep growing as a player. I’ve learned a lot here already, just under his system and his defense stuff. He’s really good.”
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