BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- The overall message at Brooklyn Nets’ Media Day is that this is a team with a chip on their collective shoulder. They have swagger and some momentum heading into the 2017-18 season. They even added talent.
But this team goes nowhere without the backcourt duo of Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell… Brooklyn’s Backcourt (TM).
“I would say we have to be that engine for this team,” Lin said of the duo. “With our offense the way we play, we’re going to see a lot of guys in double figures on any given night. But in terms of handling the ball, getting people in places and making a lot of plays, it’s going to come down to us two and then it’s on us to make the right play.”
“The reality is we were in last place last year, and we need both of us to play extremely well for this team to continue to take steps forward. We’ve discussed that a little bit, and we’re ready to take on that challenge.”
Lin has played in two point guard sets before. He’s had stints in Houston where it didn’t turn out so great, and then most recently in Charlotte where it worked wonderfully. He’s confident he can play off the ball. As a matter of fact, he feels it will help him, especially in the motion offense.
“Going back to last season, the one thing I really did miss were the dribble handoffs, maybe a backdoor cut every once in a while, a wide pin, these type of actions,” Lin said. “Coming down the floor, seeing everybody look at me and then making a play every time is hard. If you watch Isaiah Thomas and players like that, if you watch the way Brad Stevens used him in the offense last year, he was getting flare screens, dribble handoffs, staggers, pinaways, all of the angles, and the high pick-and-rolls.
“He had so much more variety to how he was being used. I’m looking forward to being able to do that, and I think D’Angelo is going to be able to do that as well and sometimes start in the corner, come off (a screen), have a dribble handoff or whatever the case may be.”
As for Russell, this is something new. His two seasons in Los Angeles were constantly in flux – from starting at the one to being in Byron Scott’s doghouse. He understands the importance of his and Lin’s success, but also understands it will take some time to adjust.
“I just think it’s something that’s going to go in time, Russell said. “Us playing with each other, we’ll start to get that relationship, get a feel for each other within the system at the same time. I like to cut and I like to move without the ball, so I don’t really feel like I need the ball necessarily in my hands.”
“He’s a great dude, a great teammate, and there’s a lot I can learn from him.”
Kenny Atkinson is convinced the two will work just fine together in the motion offense. The ball handler isn’t going to have the ball for a long time because it’s always moving. If anything, it will help to get reps off the ball.
“They’re good guys that are good basketball players,” Atkinson said at last week’s press conference. “I really believe that we can make it work. They’re both gonna play. There’s 48 minutes out there. I think if you put it on a spreadsheet, you can figure out they’re both gonna be playing a lot of point guard,” Atkinson said.
Not long after Media Day was over, Lin posted this photo captioned, “Pick Your Poison.”
Bottom line, will it work? Lin says yes, based on what he’s seen so far in the gym.
“I know how to play off the ball, he knows how to play off the ball. But his IQ is so high. Playing pickup, his passing is so phenomenal,” said Lin. “I think it’s going to be so much easier than maybe I had anticipated at first or other people had expected. I think you’re going to see us playing off of each other.”
That’s the key to the 2017-18 season. Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell. Not only one, not either or, but both. How they will lead this young Nets team has been the question since the Russell-for-Brook Lopez trade. And it will be the question going into the season..