Jeremy Lin was supposed to be the new face of the Nets but has played only 12 games because of two hamstring injuries, and general manager Sean Marks announced Monday that Lin won’t return for another “three to five weeks” after suffering a setback in his rehabilitation.
The earliest Lin might return is Feb. 15 in the Nets’ final game before the All-Star break, and his absence might last until early March.
That prompts the question of what impact Lin’s injury might have on the decisions the Nets make before the Feb. 23 NBA trade deadline, especially regarding the future of longtime franchise center Brook Lopez, the object of considerable trade speculation. It was hoped that Lin would be an effective pick-and-roll partner for Lopez, but they’ve barely played together.
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said he just wants Lin to get healthy and “finish the season the right way . . . I’d love to get a good sample size of him playing with Brook and the guys.”
Asked if the organization can be sure of what it has with the “Brook-Lin” pairing with so little to go on before the deadline, Atkinson said: “Although we didn’t see them together as much as we wanted, I do think they’re compatible. I think they both believe that they can coexist together.
“Again, we haven’t said, ‘OK, we’re not going to see it.’ I understand the trade deadline and all that, but my mindset is like I want to see them play when Jeremy is back and have them work on their chemistry.”
All indications are the Nets won’t rush to trade Lopez without receiving fair value, which means they could hold on to Lopez the remainder of the season, give him and Lin more time to play together and then decide before the NBA Draft in June.
“This doesn’t change our approach,” Marks said when asked about moving Lopez. “From Day 1 here, we’ve said we’re going to be strategic and systematic with what we do, not only in how we play the game, how we prepare, how we practice, how we rehab and also how we do our roster management. So as things come up that make sense for us to move on — and that doesn’t only have to do with Brook, that has to do with anybody — then we’ll take a look at it. If not, we won’t just jump the gun because of this.”
Lin originally strained his left hamstring on Nov. 2 and missed 17 games in the next 40 days. He injured the same hamstring, but in a different location, on Dec. 26 and missed his 14th game since then last night against the Spurs.
Marks said the injury occurred when Lin was doing basketball drills a couple of days before it was announced. He added that it was a recurrence of the second injury, but not as severe.
“We’re now taking a conservative, long-term approach, and we’re all on board with this,” Marks said. “There’s no need to rush him back. He’s a part of this franchise for the future, so let’s not do anything that’s detrimental to his health. I mean, that’s what it’s all about.”