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Jeremy Lin plans to reassert himself as Nets’ leader

The Nets' Jeremy Lin talks to the media

The Nets' Jeremy Lin talks to the media on locker clean-out day at the HSS Training Center in Brooklyn on Thursday. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

He played only one game this season, but on a day when the Nets cleaned out their lockers and went through their exit interviews before heading into the offseason, Jeremy Lin reclaimed his place in the spotlight. He spoke of how he has rebuilt his body while rehabbing the ruptured right patella tendon that ended his season, but more important, he reasserted himself as the Nets’ leader.

That’s the role Lin signed up for when he agreed to a three-year contract worth $36 million two years ago, and despite the fact that he has been healthy for just 37 games the past two seasons, it’s a role he’s determined to fulfill.

“I came here having the same role,” he said. “I don’t expect it to change. If it does, it’ll be something we communicate over. Honestly, I’m thinking about my health, I’m thinking about moving properly. I have full confidence that if I’m doing that, everything will make up for lost time and we’ll see what I had envisioned my time in Brooklyn being.”

After undergoing surgery, Lin moved his rehab to Fortius Sport & Health, a physiotherapy institute located just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. He said the decision to work apart from the team helped ease the pain of missing the season.

“I think I also needed to mentally rest as well,” Lin said.

Rather than focus simply on strengthening his injured knee, Lin determined to rebuild his entire body as a hedge against future injury and to re-wire his playing mechanics. “I’m not just looking at whether my knee will hold up,” he said. “I’m looking at whether I have done enough to completely change pre-existing movement patterns . . . I’m excited and I feel like I’m moving better and it’s going to help my game.”

Most of Lin’s summer will be spent at the Nets’ training facility, where he can focus on reintegrating into a backcourt cast whose leadership shifted back and forth this season among D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and, at times, Allen Crabbe.

Lin expressed his appreciation for how much those players grew with the ample opportunity his absence afforded them, but he added, “Defensively, we have to get nastier. We have to want it more.”

That’s an area in which Lin envisions himself making a major impact. “We need players on the court who will be leaders, who will drive the defense forward,” he said. “We need to have a voice on defense. When I come back, one of the things I’m expecting of myself is to really be the captain of the defense.”

The Nets finished 28-54, and 25 of those losses were by eight or fewer points. One other was by 10 in double overtime. Lin noted evidence in the Last Two Minute reports that a few of the Nets’ losses resulted from blown officiating calls. At the same time, he believes he can help the Nets learn what it takes to close out games at crunch time.

“The last thing is just recognizing what it takes,” Lin said. “In the fourth quarter, stuff will dry up. You really have to work for your buckets, and you really have to work for your stops. So us being able to go from gear five to gear six, that’s a gear we need to find.”

Lin wasn’t trying to set himself up as the Nets’ savior, but he’s utterly confident in his ability to improve the bottom line, which is exactly how he expects to be judged.

“We just need to win more games, and we need to, hopefully, win a lot,” he said. “When it comes down to a ballclub looking at how you did and where you were in the standings, it’s how many wins have you got? That’s the end-all, be-all.”

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