Los Angeles Lakers point guard Jeremy Lin made history with Jordan Clarkson by being part of the first Asian-American backcourt in NBA history. However, his basketball career has encountered many rough patches, even now.
In an interview conducted by Pablo S. Torre of ESPN The Magazine, Lin talked about how his career has taken various twists and turns since he rose to fame in the phenomenon known as "Linsanity" during his time in the New York Knicks back in 2012. However, after stints with the Houston Rockets and the Lakers, he described his time in Los Angeles "as hard of a year as I've ever had to experience."
"Every time I see someone, I just run and hide," Lin said from his two-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica. "This building has pretty good security. And I know it's not New York anymore. But I'm still kinda scarred from what happened."
Torre, who also described himself as Asian-American, reported that Lakers coach Byron Scott gave Lin's starting job to Ronnie Price back in December, and later to Clarkson in January. Although his friends were "just super pissed off," Lin did his best not to engage with his friends' complaints about how the Lakers were treating him.
"It got to a point where I had to tell all of them, 'Look, I appreciate you guys being on my side,'" Lin said. "'But all this stuff about how upset you guys are, or how bad you think this is, I don't want to hear any of it. I can't carry that negativity to work.'"
Torre compared Lin's life into "a surrealist mashup" between the films "Whiplash" and "Birdman." He described Lin's story as "an obsessive young player who is haunted, unremittingly, by his ambitions and by his role as a superhero in a former life."
"I've always wanted to be a starting point guard, I've always wanted to win championships, I've always wanted to be an All-Star," Lin said. "I've always wanted to be great. And for three straight years, I've put in a lot of work, but I haven't seen the results on the court."
Lin added that "the average NBA career is five years."
"It's not like I'm an accountant and I can be an accountant [until] I'm 67 years old," Lin said.
Torre reported on how Lin's career trajectory has haunted him, leaving the point guard sleepless, tired and trapped.
"I wake up at 6 [a.m.], head spinning with a million different thoughts," Lin said. "About plays from the previous night. About when I've had success in the past. How I can try to replicate that. How I can work on certain moves. How I can analyze the game differently."
According to Torre, Lin has received highly critical messages about his game strategy on the court. He even received a late-night message from NBA Kobe Bryant about his performance on his iPhone.
"I hope you're absolutely pissed off at the way the season's going," Bryant wrote.
Lin then elaborated to Torre about the lowest point of his difficult year, which happened on Jan. 23 in San Antonio. Scott decided to bench him that day.
"It just felt like I went full circle," Lin said. ""The last time I got a straight-up DNP was that first month I got signed three years ago. I wasn't playing. And then all of a sudden I'm a starter, and then a bunch of things happen."
Lin added that he felt like he was "back at square one." However, he did take responsibility for what happened during his NBA career between New York and Los Angeles.
"The majority of the responsibility is on me," Lin said. "I'm not running from that."
Mike D'Antoni, who was the Lakers coach before Scott took over, had high hopes for Lin as a point guard, according to Torre.
"I think Jeremy can fit anywhere as a player," D'Antoni said. "He's that good. But he's not Linsanity if you put him just anywhere. If you close the floor on him, he's going to look mediocre."
However, Torre reported that D'Antoni and Scott had different coaching strategies for the Lakers, which could have affected Lin's performance on the court. He framed the stark contrast in terms of "Bizzaro World."
"Whereas D'Antoni was known for an up-tempo, unstructured, high-pick-and-roll-centric offense, Scott favors an old-school, methodical, Princeton-based attack," Torre wrote. "Whereas D'Antoni opened the lane by empowering his power forward to let fly from beyond the arc, Scott announced in the preseason that he wanted the Lakers to shoot just 10 to 15 3s a game. And whereas D'Antoni empowered point guards to be CEOs, there was little doubt that Scott would defer to the 36-year-old Bryant."
Scott elaborated on his approach with Lin to Torre.
"J-Lin is used to having the ball 90 percent of the time, and in my system, you just don't do that," Scott said. "He's had some moments where he's been terrific. But sometimes smart people who get in this system can be the dumbest people in the world."
Despite the criticism leveled at Lin, the point guard wanted to strike a balance between his style of play and incorporating other superstars.
"My goal is to evolve my game so I'm not so contingent on any system," Lin said. "Great players can figure that stuff out."
Torre reported that based on Lin's own definition, the point guard is far from being great. However, he ruled out the possibility that Lin was not trying hard enough.
"Shoot," Lin said. "What do you think I'm doing when I can't sleep?"