Jeremy Lin talks rehab and watching the Nets in Barclays Center return
Point guard feeling good about progress after knee surgery
Kenny Atkinson has gotten used to that postgame buzzing on his phone. It's Jeremy Lin checking in with a suggestion, an observation, an idea.
"He's one of my text buddies," said the Nets coach. "We constantly text. He sent me a pick and roll defense, it was like a Harvard MBA presentation on pick and roll defense and how he became a better pick and roll defender. It was like, 'OK coach Lin, thanks.' But really, he's so involved. He's not just sitting there and doing his own thing. He's always hitting me with stuff."
There was no need for electronic communication on Friday evening. Lin was back in Brooklyn to see Atkinson and the Nets in person - coincidentally on the same evening that former teammate Brook Lopez returned with the Los Angeles Lakers for his first game as an opponent at Barclays Center. Lin is in town into next week for several events and appearances, including a Saturday afternoon clinic.
Before the game, he caught up with Lopez and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, delivering a commemorative ball marking Lopez as the franchise's leading scorer and sharing a picture of the trio on his Instagram.
For much of the last few months, Lin has been in Vancouver, rehabbing from the ruptured patella tendon he suffered in his right knee on opening night, ending his 2017-18 season after just 25 minutes of basketball.
He's been working at Fortius Sport & Health on a comprehensive program that goes beyond recovering from the knee injury.
"To have a year off, how can I best maximize this time," said Lin. "And also, to put myself in a position where I'm not in this position again. This is sports, so nothing's guaranteed. But addressing a lot of muscle imbalances, movement deficiencies. All these different things. The way I sit, the way I stand, the way I squat, the way I jump, shoot, all the way down the line. We're fixing everything so that I can look as close to picture perfect."
It was an approach that wasn't an ideal fit with the vagabond nature of an NBA team in-season. So rather than work around the Nets' travel schedule, Lin set up shop on a consistent basis in Vancouver. But both Lin and Atkinson stressed that communication and collaboration between Lin's team at Fortius and the Nets has been steady. Nets staff have visited him in Vancouver, with another trip planned during the All-Star break.
Lin's goal is to emerge from the experience with greater speed and explosiveness, while maintaining his style of play.
"I'm not going to change the bread and butter of who I am, which is downhill, attacking, dynamic playmaking," said Lin. "I'll always be that player."
In Lin's absence - as well as that of D'Angelo Russell for two months - Spencer Dinwiddie has emerged at the point guard spot. Dinwiddie entered last night's game averaging 13.4 points and a team-leading 6.4 assists per game, with a recent flurry of clutch performances and crunch-time baskets in January.
Lin praised Dinwiddie's "veteran steadiness" and the work ethic he saw over the summer that helped make the success possible. On Thursday, Dinwiddie was selected to participate in the 2018 Taco Bell Skills Challenge during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.
"It's awesome," said Lin. "He deserves it so much. He's hitting game-winners and really seizing the moment. He's been such a big part of this team. The biggest way to grow in the NBA is experience. You can do all that other stuff, but you just need that experience."
The string of close games that featured such Dinwiddie heroics caught Lin's attention as well.
"The fact that we're able to take a lot of top-tier teams down to the wire is a positive, and then us not being able to finish off those games is the next step," said Lin. "Or even sustaining success. Just winning a lot in a short stretch and being able to sustain it. We see strides being taken."