It’s in the wind, but whether it’s real is something else.
For the past several weeks, two of ESPN’s top analysts, Former Nets assistant GM Bobby Marks and Zach Lowe have both suggested that the Nets trade Jeremy Lin, who will be paid $12.5 million this season. Bobby Marks has repeatedly said “finding a new home” for Lin should be the Nets’ top priority this summer and Lowe has just as repeatedly recommended that Sean Marks call the Phoenix Suns and offer Lin for Dragan Bender (who’s on a rookie deal). Maybe add some salary pieces, like Jared Dudley who’s also an expiring deal.
Now, Brian Lewis writes, “Multiple league sources told The Post they had heard Lin could be dealt this offseason. Orlando is a logical landing spot. Lin played under Magic coach Steve Clifford during their time together in Charlotte. And ESPN posited a move to Phoenix even before the Suns cut Tyler Ulis.”
The rationale for all this talk starts with the logjam in the Nets backcourt. The Nets have a multitude of players who can play at the 1 or 2, starting with Lin and including D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Allen Crabbe, Isaiah Whitehead, rookie Dzanan Musa and two-way Milton Doyle. Harris, Crabbe and Musa can all play the 3 as well. Maybe Whitehead too. Trading Lin for frontcourt help has appeal.
Then, there’s the age thing. Lin turns 30 next month while the range among the group above is between 19 (Musa) and 26 (Harris). Of course, Lin has missed 127 of the Nets’ 164 games over the last two years, too. That qualifies as injury-prone. Will he be ready for training camp and Opening Night? He expects to be and said if he’s not, “something’s very wrong.” Still, he has not been fully cleared, last we heard.
All that adds up to the ultimate analysis that Lin is almost certainly not in the Nets long-term plans. They need to play DLo and Dinwiddie this season to see how much of that big cap hoard they should hold for them them ... a year from now in Russell’s case and five months from now in Dinwiddie’s case. That’s when they can extend his deal. They also need to see what LeVert can do when unleashed. There is a lot of interest in him around the league. Suppose they decide to “play the kids” and Lin sits on the bench? Is that going to be a distraction, a source of media speculation?
The Nets like Lin as a person, as a teammate, as a symbol of their culture as well as the player he is when healthy. He’s a marketing draw. Truth be told, he’s their only marketing draw, the only player on the roster right now who can sell tickets. Any global ambitions start and end with Lin as well. He is, after all, the third most popular NBA player in China (and the new minority owner’s favorite player.) Moreover, he likes the organization and his teammates.
So, if they’re intent to move Lin, could they get value for him ... without knowing how healthy he’ll be ... or when? Good question. As Lewis points out, the Magic could use a PG (although there are rumblings this weekend they’re talking to another injured guard, Isaiah Thomas.) Phoenix could too, but for who do you take back? Bender is owed $5.6 million in 2019-20. Tyson Chandler is still an excellent defender, an expiring contract and a solid citizen, but didn’t Ed Davis just fill those roles at a far lower price and with a far more recent birth certificate?
Things should start to sort out for the Nets Friday when the Dwight Howard trade and buyout will (likely) be complete and the Nets cap space numbers firmed up. For all we know, there might be a backlog of moves ready to go. So we’ll see.
The last thing anyone in the front office said publicly about Lin and his future came two days after the season ended and was positive ... but by no means definitive as to his future.
“He’s proven people wrong his entire career, so that’s something when we first brought Jeremy on board intrigued us about him,” Sean Marks said at the end-of-season press conference. “There’s no market too big for him, there’s no moment.
“I’d say I wouldn’t bet against Jeremy. The way he’s attacked his rehab over the last six to eight months is really impressive. He’s come back with a new lease on life, which is great.”
Then he ended, “We’re intrigued.”