Tracking Jeremy Lin’s return to the Nets is a little bit like shaking a Magic 8 Ball and hoping for the best.
Is his strained left hamstring doing better?
Yes, definitely. He’s “progressing aggressively,” coach Kenny Atkinson said.
When will he be back?
Reply hazy, try again.
It’s been almost four weeks since Lin suffered the injury, and though he’s shown improvement — he was on the court for the open portion of practice Monday and didn’t seem too hindered while contesting a few jumpers — hamstring injuries are tricky, nagging things, and the Nets have given no timetable for his return.
Atkinson said the next step will be for Lin to practice with the team, but the Nets aren’t sure when that will be, either. It all depends on his progress.
“I wish I could give you more,” Atkinson said. “He’s just working really hard, anxious” to return.
Lin isn’t alone in that sentiment. Since he went down on Nov. 2, the Nets are 2-9 and using a rotating cast to plug holes that seem too massive to fill. Rookie Isaiah Whitehead has mostly taken over the starting point guard duties, but they’ve also relied on Yogi Ferrell, Randy Foye and Sean Kilpatrick, playing out of position, to tread water.
Now Whitehead has the unenviable task of staring down Chris Paul and the Clippers on Tuesday night (the Clippers were the team that started what is now a seven-game losing streak for the Nets).
If there is going to be a bright side — and if you’re the Nets, it’s all about looking for the bright side — Whitehead has shown improvement from his shaky first few games. He also has had to go to battle with powerhouse Russell Westbrook and talents such as the Kings’ Darren Collison, a speedy veteran and a learning experience for a rookie point guard earning his stripes in the NBA.
“I’m obviously disappointed with the loss, but I’m happy [Whitehead is] getting these minutes, these big minutes,” Atkinson said about the rookie’s learning experience Sunday against the Kings. “When Jeremy is back, he’ll kind of go into a backup role, so all this experience he’s getting playing against the top guys, when he’s slotted in a position as a backup, I can only think that’s going to help him. I can only think this is helping him progress, going to help him develop . . . We want better, but we’re seeing positive things and positive improvement.”
Atkinson said these tests have brought out the best in Whitehead, and even his teammates are noticing that he’s more vocal, more confident. “All the players are saying Isaiah’s changing,” he said. “He’s opening up, he’s talking to us, he’s asking questions. That’s big progress.”
Whitehead doesn’t limit himself to questioning his teammates, either. When he played against Westbrook, he picked his brain while they were lining up on the foul line. He spoke to Damian Lillard while playing the Trail Blazers last week and the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas in the preseason. And whether he speaks to him or not, the Clippers’ Paul, a perennial All-Star, should bring his own set of lessons.
“I’m just trying to learn from them and then really just trying to go at them and see how [Paul] adjusts,” Whitehead said. “I haven’t played against him yet, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Notes & quotes: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (ankle) participated in a partial practice. He said his ankle, which he hurt last Wednesday, is still sore but that he’ll be re-evaluated Tuesday.