During the Play-In games, Jeremy Lin was probably so bored that he felt it was the most appropriate time to hint at retirement on a post from his official Twitter.
Included in the lengthy statement, Lin notes that many of his peers were signed ahead of him, which made him believe his time was coming, but as deserving as he was, it never did. Lin appeared to give himself credit for what he had done in the league but changed his tone later on in the statement.
“I’m really proud of what I accomplished,” he said. “I killed it in the G League and objectively showed it being a league leader in all categories PG should and shooting career-highs across the board. For months, I saw others get contracts, chances, opportunities. I told myself I just need ONE ten-day contract, one chance to get back on the floor, and I would blow it out the water. After all, that’s how my entire career started - off one chance to prove myself.
“To the next generation of Asian American ballers — man, I so wish I could have done more on the court to break barriers — (especially) now — but you guys do got next,” he added. “I didn’t get it done, but I have no regrets. I gave it my ALL and hold my head high.”
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Lin is correct — he did kill it in the G League. He averaged about 20 points, and over six assists per game on 51 / 43 / 88 shooting splits and was the only top-10 G League scorer who didn’t earn an NBA contract this season. As noted last month, his career is a casualty of the NBA’s veteran problem while organizations opt for more swings at inexpensive undrafted rookies, hoping to find the next Fred VanVleet, Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, or, this season, Jae’Sean Tate.
But while Lin wishes he would’ve done more to break down barriers for other NBA hopefuls of Asian descent, he still did it. Furthermore, he’s accomplished much more than even he gives himself credit for. And while he’s known primarily for Linsanity, he had a successful NBA run aside from that.
He had no Division I college offers despite being the California State Division II Player of the Year, and in spite of sending a DVD of highlights to all eight Ivy League schools, the University of Cal, UCLA, and Stanford, he was only guaranteed a roster spot from Harvard and Brown University. Both are Ivy League schools, meaning he didn’t receive an athletic scholarship. From there, he not only became easily the best player Harvard’s ever produced at the time of his graduation, but you had a feeling he’d stick around after watching him take it to then- No. 1number one overall pick John Wall from the same 2010 draft Lin went unselected.
And in the NBA, Lin was a productive player who had career averages of 11.6 points and 4.3 assists on 25.5 minutes per game through 480 appearances from 2010-2019. His nine-year run culminated with an NBA Championship with the 2019 Toronto Raptors, and his peak years between 2011-2017 saw him at about 13 points and five assists per game. The unfortunate turn of Lin’s career began in 2016, where it was clear he was about to be at his best.
Lin joined the Brooklyn Nets on a three-year deal worth $36 million that summer, the final year being a player option. The Nets sucked at the time, but they entered the 2016-17 campaign built around Lin and Brook Lopez, led by first-year head coach Kenny Atkinson, who was a bit of a point guard whisperer before he and the team parted ways in 2020. Throughout his first year in Brooklyn, Lin struggled with injuries, particularly his hamstring, and was limited to just 36 appearances. But even though they finished 20-62, they were so bad that his competent point guard play helped give them a 13-23 record when he played. It doesn’t sound like much until you consider his minutes’ restriction (24.5 minutes per game), along with the fact that the Nets were 7-39 when Lin didn’t play.
Then, on the very first game of the 2017-18 season, Lin ruptured his patella tendon against the Indiana Pacers, turning the offense over to D’Angelo Russell and providing a pathway for the development of Spencer Dinwiddie, making him expendable at the end of the season. 2016-17 spawned Lin’s career-best per 36 numbers, averaging 21.3 points, 7.5 assists, and 5.5 rebounds. Taking those same metrics and applying them to a 30-minute per game season, which is what he averaged in his first four games that season before being injured on the fifth, the averages would’ve translated to 17.8 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per contest. Had he been around for his Nets tenure, we’re talking about a talented guard taking advantage of increased usage in Brooklyn, leading to a trade by the 2018 deadline onto a competitive roster in need of a scoring guard. (The four-game sample size is small, but chances are he would’ve stayed around those projected averages. Take it from someone who was there; that team didn’t have much else.)
Think of the Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers, who acquired George Hill at the deadline, then making $20 million. Lin then likely would’ve opted out and signed a long-term deal, perhaps even mirroring the three years $57 million Hill signed at the time. Hill had averaged 16.9 points, and 4.2 assists on 48 / 40 / 80 splits before signing the deal. Lin would’ve had better counting stats but have done so less efficiently if you use his final 16-17 splits of 44 / 37 / 82. Say it was a three-year deal, Lin would be looking at free agency this summer, where he’ll turn 33 in August.
It was hypothetical but plausible. Unfortunately, for Lin, who got far from the ending he could’ve had before the injuries, but even still, he managed to be a quality guard in a league filled with them, standing out as one of the most influential players of his era because of who he is. It was a good run, and it could’ve been even better, but if you play this out otherwise, there are instances where there wouldn’t be a run to begin it. If this is it, respect to a career no one saw coming.