Jeremy Lin’s return to Barclays Center on Sunday afternoon for the first time since the Nets traded him to the Hawks in July was tinged with “sad” memories of the injuries that limited him to 37 games. He said it “hurt” to be dealt because he expected to return to the Nets after suffering a season-ending torn patella tendon in the opener last season.
But Lin also was happy to see familiar faces and grateful to be back playing again. The mild applause he received when he came off the bench early in the first quarter seemed a reflection of the fact that the fans never got to experience true “Linsanity” because of all his injuries, and he didn’t do much in his return, scoring six points in the Hawks’ 144-127 loss to the Nets.
“As sad as it is when I think of Brooklyn, obviously, I just think of a lot of injuries and things like that,” Lin said before the game. “It’s quite a contrast to being healthy, being able to participate in a game. Very grateful, very thankful, got to see a lot of familiar faces. A lot of my Nets guys have been just keeping in touch with me and checking in with me the whole season, staff, coaches, players, everything. It’s been awesome. It kind of feels like a reunion of sorts.”
Time apparently has helped heal Lin’s wounded feelings since a trade that basically was made to clear his $12.5 million salary. “I’ll be honest,” Lin said. “I was really hurt. Maybe the way things happened was a little bit unexpected. Maybe I didn’t agree with everything, with what I was told. But I understand it. It’s never hard feelings. Everybody’s got to make a business decision.”
Lin declined to get into specifics of his disagreement with the organization over the trade but said he since has discussed it with general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson, both of whom still text with him. “I think we’re all on the same page,” Lin said.
Nets minority owner Joe Tsai, who expressed some dismay at seeing his favorite player depart, had dinner with Lin after the trade and later played in his charity game. “Again, I think we’re all on the same page in terms of how the trade happened, but we’ve been able to move on across all parties,” said Lin, who emphasized that he’s a fan of Tsai and proud to have Asian representation among NBA owners.
Although Lin didn’t put up big numbers against the Nets, he came in averaging 10.8 points, 3.2 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game. Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce called him their “stabilizer” and said he has been remarkably efficient since regaining his confidence.
“There were some very bad days early on,” Lin said. “I got cleared maybe three or four days before training camp. I hadn’t played five-on-five at all. It was tough. They saw me go through the entire process of getting my legs under me, trusting my body, slowly gaining my explosiveness, my rhythm. That’s all part of the process. I started to turn a corner two or three weeks into the season.”