Kevin McHale has coached Jeremy Lin more than any other coach in the NBA ... even though the two worked together for less than two years.
While Kenny Atkinson justifiably gets credit for his mentorship of Lin as a Knicks assistant, McHale knows Lin as a head coach. He recently spoke with Brian Lewis of the New York Post discussing Lin’s game and how the Nets might finish this season.
“He has high effort. He’s going to make mistakes, but they’re going to be mistakes of effort. “You’ll never have to encourage him go full-blast, maybe to go a little slower. He’s very aggressive, that hasn’t changed. That was the way he was in Houston. I think you’ll see the same thing with the Nets.”
“He’s not afraid of the big shot, not afraid of moment,’’ said McHale, now a TNT analyst. “He plays very close to the reckless side. That’s what makes him a good player. He still plays hard. I don’t think a lot will change. But he’s a better player than when I saw him, and he’s become content being Jeremy Lin, not Jeremy Linsanity.”
McHale was the coach of the Houston Rockets when they signed Lin away from New York and gave him his first starting gig in 2012. He started all 82 games in his first year with the Rockets and averaged 13.4 points and six assists. However in the 2013-2014 season, Lin started just 33 games.
As Lewis writes, Lin feels more comfortable now than he did in Houston.
“I have a lot more experience under my belt now, so I know what to expect, I know guys’ tendencies, I know what works and what doesn’t work in this league,’’ Lin told The Post. “And I’ve been able to shore up certain areas of my game.”
Kevin McHale had nothing but good things to say about his former point guard, mostly talking about how he’s refined his game in many facets.
“He’s a better shooter, a better defender. He’s more disciplined, a better decision-maker. He’s a better shooter, which sets up his ability to drive more. All those things he got better in. He’s much better in a lot of different ways.”
As many Nets fans know, Vegas projects the Nets to win only 20.5 games… the worst in the NBA. McHale didn’t necessarily disagree, but says the Nets could be one of those teams that surprises people.
“They’re right now being looked at as one of worst teams, which I think they are. They can be better than that, but they’ve got to come together, be one of those teams that overachieves and be a fun team for Nets fans to like.
There’s nothing worse than a crappy team that underachieves. I think they have a chance to surprise. It’s going to take [work to avoid thinking], ‘We’re projected to win 20 games, I’m going to get mine and screw everybody else.’ Then you’ll win 15. Or they could say, ‘Hey, we’re better than that, we’re going to fight together, grow together,’ and all of a sudden win 35 and you’re proud of them.
Lin doesn’t disagree with his former coach and explains during tough days, a team can either become stronger or fall apart. “Usually it’s one of those two,” Lin said. “They either come together or completely fall apart. And that depends on character, culture, coaching, players, all that.”
The last line is what will determine whether Sean Marks recruited the right players and coaches to fit the so-called “culture” needed to keep this thing together during tough times.
As for Lin and McHale, they’re nothing but a thing of the past — and a bit of an ugly one. In the 2014 playoffs, McHale called him out for a mental mistake. McHale is now a TNT analyst and Lin and point guard for the Brooklyn Nets under his longtime mentor, Kenny Atkinson. Things have moved on.