Could LinSanity return to New York, this time in Brooklyn?
Speculation is rising after the Nets announced the hire of former Hawks assistant coach Kenny Atkinson. Atkinson has been the Hawks assistant coach for four years but before that, he was a Knicks assistant coach when Jeremy Lin created Linsanity in 2011-12.
Lin, who had his best full NBA season this year with the Hornets, praised Atkinson at the time, crediting him not just with his development but providing him with the tools he needed, even before he exploded on the Garden scene. Here's what he told the reporters at the height of Linsanity...
"I mean this guy wakes up at 6 a.m. every morning. I'll text after a game at midnight, one o'clock when I go home and I'll say, 'Hey can I look at those turnovers? Can I look at the upcoming team? How they run pick-and-rolls?' And he'll have the film ready when I walk into the facility the next morning.
""When I wasn’t playing much, we were working out before practice, and after practice he was picking apart my game, teaching me what it’s like to play in Coach D’Antoni’s system."
"I can’t say enough about that guy."
The Nets were interested in Lin last summer, offering him a multi-year contract, based on the Mini-MLE, league sources.tell NetsDaily. That would have meant a starting salary of $3.4 million, but Lin's team wanted a deal starting at $5+ million. The Nets moved on, splitting the MiniMLE between Shane Larkin and Wayne Ellington. Lin had to settle for a two year deal, starting at $2.1 million.
Now 27, Lin has "reinvented" himself in Charlotte, as Frank Isola wrote Monday. He is due for a big payday after averaging 11.7 points 3.2 rebounds and 3 assists per game, mostly as Kemba Walker's back-up and runningmate. As a starter, he averaged close to 18 points. Lin has a player option this summer. There's little doubt he will opt out.
Of course, nobody needs a point guard more than the Nets. Brooklyn's going to most likely move on from Jarrett Jack, who is owed only $500,000 on next year's contract and is coming off knee surgery. has a player option and is hinting he might be back. Donald Sloan is a free agent who's on the record as wanting to stay. Will any of them be back?
The Nets don't have the same intrigue (or assets) to attract free agents the way other teams do, but they now have Atkinson. And of course, Lin loved his time in New York. With Brett Yormark handling the marketing, you can be sure of a LinSanity revival. (Not to mention that the HSS Training Center is located in Sunset Park, Brooklyn's Chinatown.)
Alan Hahn, speaking on ESPN Radio, thinks that a reunion is very possible.
"I think you could see Jeremy Lin, who's going to be a free agent, I could see him looking at Brooklyn as a destination for him because a) he's coming back to New York where he can become a megastar again, but b) because that's the coach," said Hahn, who said he's known Atkinson since he was 12.."Kenny Atkinson is the reason LinSanity was LinSanity. Jeremy will tell you that."
Lin is not the only point guard who's gone on record praising Atkins. Hawks point guard Jeff Teague provided reporters with his own compliments Monday. Teague has improved throughout his time with the Hawks and he too credits Atkinson for helping his development.
Hawks point guard Jeff Teague said best news he heard was the Nets hiring assistant Kenny Atkinson. Teague... https://t.co/WJ7ioJgnqz— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) April 18, 2016
Another Hawks player who had kind words for Atkinson is Al Horford. While Atkinson is noted for his ability to work with point guards, Horford also has the utmost respect for his assistant coach. Here's the quote from Horford via Brian Lewis.
"He believes you can improve as a player, even at the highest level," Horford said. Before he got here I was pretty much a shooter on the pick-and-pop. I was never really driving. Kenny has challenged me to put the ball on the floor. It's something we've worked on together, and now it's something I feel comfortable doing."
Atkinson's player development is clearly a big reason why he was hired, but what about his ability to recruit free agents like Lin? Atkinson is well-respected around the league and Brooklyn's situation isn't as frowned on around the league as fans might assume.
Is Lin the Nets long term answer at point guard. You would have to assume no, but no one had faith in the undrafted Harvard man like Atkinson did in 2011 either.