The NBA moratorium is over, and it’s official: The new era of Nets basketball has begun, and Jeremy Lin will be leading the way.
The Nets announced two big moves Thursday indicative of the shift in culture they’re hoping to achieve under new general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson: Lin, signed as a free agent, who brings youth, character, and a desire to play in New York (along with a track record that shows he can do it), and Caris LeVert, the 20th overall draft pick, whom the Nets got from the Pacers in return for Thaddeus Young. The Nets also got a future second-round pick in the deal.
Both moves were all but done days ago, but the league-wide waiting period precluded the Nets from doing anything official.
“We are excited to welcome Jeremy to Brooklyn,” Marks said in a statement. “He is a high-character and competitive individual who will fit our culture moving forward, as well as the style of play that Kenny will be implementing. Jeremy is a proven veteran point guard with strong leadership qualities who is an obvious fit in this system and city.”
Lin, who reportedly signed a three-year, $36-million contract, worked closely with Atkinson in his time with the Knicks, at the height of Linsanity, when Atkinson, a former point guard, was an assistant under Mike D’Antoni.
Lin scored 136 points in his first five starts with the Knicks, kick-starting a basketball phenomenon and building a fan base all around the world — many of whom were all too happy to root for the kid who didn’t get a single college basketball scholarship offer and who went undrafted in 2010.
The rest of his career didn’t quite live up to his quick rise — he hasn’t been a regular starter in the past three seasons — but he’s all but guaranteed a starting role with the Nets, who had to rely on backups Shane Larkin and Donald Sloan for most of last season. The Nets haven’t had a true starting point guard since Deron Williams left in 2015, relying on then-backup Jarrett Jack, who tore an ACL last January (they waived Jack before signing Lin).
Lin, 27, played in 78 games with the Hornets last season, averaged 11.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists, and played in all seven of the Hornets’ playoff games. Though the Hornets were eliminated in the first round, he averaged 12.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in the series.
The Nets further bolstered their backcourt with LeVert, a shooting guard. Though Young told reporters in May that he believed he wouldn’t be traded, and appeared to have every intention of staying in Brooklyn (he had a house there), he was traded on draft day to get the Nets into the first round. They had given away that right in the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett mega-trade with the Celtics in 2013.
On draft day this year, Young, 28, who went to the Pacers after 101 games (93 starts) with the Nets, said his goodbyes to the fans and city on social media. On Thursday, LeVert, who played four seasons for Michigan, introduced himself.
“Blessed and honored to say I am officially be apart of the @BrooklynNets,” he tweeted.
LeVert — 6-7 and 21 years old — was considered one of the premier young talents in college basketball before a series of foot injuries required surgery, sidelining him for long portions of the last three years. He’s had three surgeries on his left foot and attended the NBA Combine on crutches. But if he can stay healthy, the Nets could have come away with a steal.
LeVert helped Michigan to three NCAA Tournament appearances, including a spot in the Elite Eight in 2014 (he also was on the team when Michigan made the championship game in 2013, his freshman year, but he did not score off the bench). In 15 games his senior year (before his foot injury), he averaged 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 30.9 minutes. He shot 50.6 percent from the field and 44.6 percent from three-point range.
The Nets have yet to announce what currently is their most expensive move of this offseason: Tyler Johnson’s four-year, $50-million offer sheet.
Things are less secure with Johnson, given that his original team, the Heat, has three days to match the offer sheet — something that at first seemed very unlikely for cap reasons but became somewhat more possible after former teammate and fellow shooting guard Dwyane Wade chose to leave the Heat for the Bulls.