Back in 2012 when Jeremy Lin was blazing his path to notoriety, another point guard—arguably our generation's most iconic—took notice.
"It's amazing. He's a great story," said Steve Nash at the time, per Jared Zwerling (then writing for ESPNNewYork.com). "It's a great story for the league. I think it's phenomenal that it happened in the media capital of the world in a desperate team with a desperate fanbase. It's just a beautiful thing to see somebody come out of nowhere to most people and shine the way he has."
With Lin readying to debut his talents in another media mecca, it's worth recalling Nash also mused that, "I think every team can use a point guard like him."
Apparently the Los Angeles Lakers agreed.
Now Lin joins Nash in what should be a formidable floor-general platoon, at least if it remains at full health.
Now here comes the hard part.
While new Lakers head coach Byron Scott may be reluctant to separate the legendary Nash from his starting job, there's a strong case that Lin deserves the nod this season. This isn't about who deserves to start. Nor is it about managing egos.
It's about what's best for the team.
Nash remains a one-of-a-kind leader regardless of where he's situated in the rotation. Indeed, his presence could have a transformative effect on Lin himself—and Lin knows it, telling reporters, "I can't wait. I remember when he was in Phoenix and was 20 and 10 every night. I can’t wait to learn from him."
But wisdom and know-how aren't reasons Nash should start.
Lakers Nation's Ryan Ward wrote in July, "Moving forward, the consensus appears to be that Lin will be the starter with Nash likely set to come off the bench and rookie Jordan Clarkson being third on the depth chart."
The reasons for such an approach are many.
At minimum, Los Angeles should keep a close watch on Nash's minutes—perhaps even occasionally sitting the 40-year-old in back-to-back situations. Though that's conceivably doable in the event Nash starts, there's a risk Nash's uneven availability could impact the starting lineup's chemistry.
In the interest of building and sustaining rhythm, you'd like to see the Lakers deploy a consistent starting lineup as much as possible. With Nash's playing time (and health) jeopardizing that, Lin becomes a more reliable starting option.
After a season in which he played just 15 games, it's probably unwise to rest too many hopes on Nash.
There's also a chance Lin could blossom in a way we haven't seen since his New York days.
This is a fresh start for him, potentially a departure from a Houston Rockets experiment in which he started just 33 games during his second season with the team. While making the most of his new opportunity ultimately depends on Lin, the Lakers would do well to increase his confidence.
Lin is still young in basketball years.
Lin told Basketball Insider's Alex Kennedy in July:
I definitely don’t think I’m close to my prime yet. I'm 25 years old and I think because of the way things have happened, people always think I'm older or I've been around longer than I really have. I've played two full seasons in the NBA – two full seasons and those 25 games in New York. I guess people have been very quick to write me off just because they saw how it started and then they saw what I was like in Houston, but I have to just keep reminding myself it's a marathon.
Kennedy added, "As he continues to expand his game, he'll have two Hall of Fame guards alongside him in the backcourt, which should do wonders for his development. Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant have been injured in recent years, but Lin is hoping to pick their brains and learn as much as he can from his legendary teammates."
In short, there's reason to believe that Lin can rise to the challenge a starting role presents.
After starting 82 games for the Rockets in 2012-13, Lin averaged a respectable 13.4 points and 6.1 assists per contest. It may not have lived up to the 20.9 points and 8.4 assists he tallied with New York in February 2012, but it demonstrated that Lin can produce on a full-time basis.
Under the right tutelage—something he lacked in Houston—that full-time production could improve.
There's also something to be said for what Nash could do with the second unit.
The Lakers already have one ball-dominating playmaker in the starting lineup. Rather than asking Nash to compete with Bryant for touches, why not make him orchestrator-in-chief of the bench? It would ensure the veteran more touches, and it just might translate into better performances from other reserves.
Nash has a way of bringing out the best in his teammates. Perhaps he'd have a force-multiplying effect on L.A.'s depth, making the most of guys like rookie Julius Randle and potential sixth man Nick Young.
Moving Nash to the bench could very well be a win-win scenario for him and Lin alike.
Some aren't especially high on Los Angeles' resources at the point guard spot.
CBSSports.com's Matt Moore recently wrote, "At point guard you've got an inconsistent player who's had minor but considerable injury issues the past two seasons in Lin, Nash who is barely able to get on the floor, and a second-round pick [Jordan Clarkson] who's probably more of a shooting guard."
After a 27-55 2013-14 campaign in which all that could go wrong did, the pessimism is understandable. General manager Mitch Kupchak improved the roster to the best of his ability, and recovery from injuries will make a significant difference.
But things could go south. Fast.
Lin registers as one of the principal reasons to hope otherwise. His pedigree doesn't rival Nash or Bryant's but the Lakers' fortunes are no less dependent on his contributions this season.
Contributions he could very well make as a starter.
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