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Some thoughts from the final day of Summer League

Jul 19, 2010, 8:00 AM EDT

jlin.jpgJust got home after 10 days in Las Vegas — a crazy experience, to say the least. Here are some quick thoughts from the final day of action:

-I was definitely too hard on Jeremy Lin in my original evaluation of him. I absolutely loved and continue to love his approach to the game, but alongside of guards like Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones, and John Wall, Lin didn’t look as explosive as he does against less freakish athletes, and I definitely missed a lot of the nuance in his game. These are the things that can happen when you watch 40 games in 10 days.
I took a really hard look at Lin in his Summer League finale game against the Kings, and the news is all good. Lin isn’t a traditional drive-and-kick guard, but he sees plays before they happen and knows where the right pass is. Even if he doesn’t make the pass that leads directly to a basket, he gets the ball to a teammate in a position where he can do something with it. His three assist box score is a joke — there were at least four or five passes Lin made that didn’t go down as assists because his teammate blew an open shot or got fouled. He also moves as well without the ball as any guard in Summer League, which is something that becomes obvious as soon as he hits the floor. 
The biggest thing Lin needs to improve is his jumper, which is passable but not great. He’s not a guy that looks to settle for the jumper, which is a great quality, but he will need to keep the defense honest from the perimeter. Right now, Lin’s elbow flies out when he shoots, and you can tell he doesn’t have total faith in his jumper yet.
His shot isn’t a glaring weakness or anything — he made a three per game at Harvard, and hit two of the three three-pointers he took in Vegas. It’s just that he’ll be a nearly ideal backup guard or starter in a triangle-type offense in the NBA if he can make that jumper into a strength — I can definitely see Lin being a Derek Fisher-type guard thanks to his blend of toughness and basketball IQ, with Lin being a better driver than Fisher but a less confident outside shooter. 
-DeMarcus Cousins showed that he has plenty of talent, and he shouldn’t be judged two harshly for lackluster performances in games that mean absolutely nothing to him. The red flag for me was his body language — he looks like he doesn’t want to be on the floor when a call goes against him, and he was clearly not in the mood to listen to a coach trying to give him some defensive pointers at halftime.
-Great bounce-back game for Luke Babbitt, who managed to score 22 points on only 8 shots. He’s such a good shooter, but he had trouble getting all the way to the rim in the game before this one. Against the Bulls on Sunday, Babbitt made the necessary adjustment, and looked to make the pass when the defense collapsed on him rather than trying to go all the way to the rim. That’s what Summer League is supposed to be for.
-Faroq-Aminu managed to make three three-pointers against the D-League All-Stars, but there is no way 8 of his 13 field goal attempts should be coming from beyond the arc. If he wants to be an effective player in this league, he has to find a way to get his game as close to the rim as possible. 
-Larry Sanders can flat-out play. He has so much skill for a guy with his size, length, and athleticism, and he’s one of the best defenders in Summer League. I’m genuinely excited to see a defensive frontline of Mbah a Moute/Sanders/Bogut in some situations next season.
-Great ending to Summer League play; with the D-Leaguers down by two to the Clippers and time running down, Mark Tyndale picked up a loose ball after Yaroslav Korolev had it poked away by Faroq-Aminu, threw up the buzzer-beating attempt, and swished it through to give the D-Leaguers a 79-78 lead and end Summer-League. Great ending to an incredible stretch of basketball. 
  1. zxcvb - Jul 19, 2010 at 8:27 AM

    Thanks so much, John, for your re-evaluation of Lin. Everyone makes mistakes and very few have the guts to admit it and revise their original analysis like an intelligent writer would. And I don’t believe you’re pandering either because you touched upon very nuanced things about Lin’s game and performance — things that I’m more familiar with than most because (full disclosure!) I’m a Harvard guy. Good point about assists — a point that most sports journalists neglect to mention despite the obvious common sense of it. Also, what people need to understand is that there’s more to “athleticism” than explosiveness. There’s agility, stamina, sheer size and strength etc. Lin tested among the best in agility at Portsmouth — something not mentioned outside of a one random blog.
    BTW, I don’t even blame you for being too hard on Lin — even as a Harvard alum who is also (more disclosure) Asian-American, I often preface my praise of Lin with qualifiers like: “He can never be a starter, but…” when, in fact, I don’t believe in my gut that it’s impossible. Mind you, I’m not saying it’s likely, but to rule it out as impossible despite being Asian and from Harvard myself — well, that just goes to show you how ingrained these kinds of pre-judgments are. It’s an age-old psychological phenomenon. Decide in advance what you want to see and then look for evidence of it.
    And finally, let me say that I agree that some of Lin’s fans, Asian or Ivy League or not, do indeed “overcompensate” in their bashing of those who don’t believe Lin can succeed at the NBA level. But you have to understand that the majority of that comes from 1) The perceived (unintentional) patronizing — e.g. how come Scottie Reynolds didn’t have to have his athleticism, which is worse than Lin’s, questioned in every single feature about him? 2) Some outright racially-charged insults or infuriating comments on, say, Sun Yue doing poorly so there’s no need to be excited about Lin. We shouldn’t be told to shut up and smile (which many commenters implied) simply because a writer did us the “charity” of covering “our guy” (BTW: Should we accuse Gordon Hayward’s white fans of simply looking out for their “own kind?” Clearly, it’s natural for all peoples to root for people like ourselves…whether they share your race, hometown, school, class/background, etc.
    Anyway, thanks for your revisiting of Lin’s game. For the record, he only played 19mpg, so his per-game stats don’t look great, but Lin shot 54.5% overall — that’s easily better than Beaubois, Jones, or Wall.

  2. zxcvb - Jul 19, 2010 at 8:43 AM

    Oops, one last clarification — I misspoke when I said, “decide in advance what you want to see.” That’s not what’s happening here. I was just referring to the simple phenomenon of how we look to confirm pre-conceived notions rather than letting evidence determine our opinions.

  3. Observer157 - Jul 19, 2010 at 10:10 AM

    What else does Jeremy Lin have to do to prove he belongs in the NBA? He torched UConn and BC twice, outplayed John Wall in the summer league, and was one of 20 finalists for the John Wooden (best DI player) and Bob Cousy (best DI point guard) awards. He keeps getting no respect and is the biggest sleeper in this year’s crop of rookies.
    The comments about Jeremy being less athletic are completely bogus, lazily made simply because he’s Asian American. Lin has been the most athletic player on the Mavericks summer team, with eye popping spin moves, out-rebounding other guards, and getting steals and blocks no other guard is able to do.
    Jeremy Lin is the most productive and efficient per-minute player on the Mavericks summer team for scoring, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. He’s shooting 55% from the field, and 66% from 3-point land. His last game he took only 6 shots and scored 12 points. His game is legit, he can play with the best.
    Even though he showed he can hold his own (if not dominate) against the #1 overall draft pick John Wall, he still has a TON of potential to grow, and the sky’s the limit for him. He is learning more every single game. He is clearly a much more intuitive and natural backup point guard than Roddy or Barrea.
    For those naysayers pointing out the turnovers, those will cut down the more experience he gets. John Wall had 8 turnovers for 2 straight games leading up to the Mavericks matchup, for some perspective. Lin also has less total and less per-minute turnovers than Roddy does.

  4. Zachariah Blott - Jul 19, 2010 at 7:39 PM

    Complete summer league wrap-up at including top rookie performances, Clippers’ draft already looking terrible, and DeMarcus Cousins has gotten bad quickly.

  5. Zachariah Blott - Jul 19, 2010 at 7:40 PM

    Complete summer league wrap-up at including top rookie performances, Clippers’ draft already looking terrible, and DeMarcus Cousins has gotten bad quickly.

  6. Jimsjam33 - Jul 20, 2010 at 1:39 AM

    Sorry Charlie ,
    The Sacramento Kings must have gotten screwed by a scouting department that worked for the L.A. Clippers in 1998 . That year the Clippers had the first pick of the draft and selected Michael Olowokani , a seven foot center who had hands of stone and two left feet.
    Introducing Demarcus Cousins …he has no talent other than size. He is clumsy , slow of foot and mind . Plus this 19 year old spoiled brat has a temper ! Congratulations Sacramento Kings you just made this dud America’s newest millionaire .

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