As the Brooklyn Nets conclude a season that was even worse than expected under the first year tenures of GM Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson, there is reason for hope. The depth of the Nets’ despair came because point guard Jeremy Lin got hurt, plain and simple. The Nets don’t have the talent yet to compete for a playoff spot, but they also didn’t have to be the worst team in the NBA. It was Lin’s hamstring that gave the Nets that ignominious distinction.
Consider this: with Lin on the court the Nets went 13-23. It’s nothing to be excited about, but it looks downright lovely next to 7-38. That’s the Nets 2017 record without Lin, who suffered multiple injuries to his hamstring this season. Returning late in the year and providing a bright spot in a dark time, Lin’s game against the Celtics in Boston was a primer on what Atkinson hopes to get from Lin going forward. Lin scored 26 points and grabbed 12 boards. But it was ability to get into the paint and get fouled that stood out — as that’s what makes Lin special and consistent. He’s smart and strong inside, can penetrate as well as any point guard — even those with much fancier crossover moves. Lin took 17 free throws against the Celtics, a career high. (He made 16 of them.) That kind of play changes the game and gives the Nets hope for the future.