SAN FRANCISCO — The Nets way of handling injuries is slow and cautious, and that is especially so regarding the care and handling of Jeremy Lin, who has missed a total of 100 days with two hamstring injuries. He was limited to 14.5 minutes in his first two games back after the All-Star break, and in both games, he played barely four minutes to start the third quarter before sitting the rest of the game.
That will change against the Kings Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center, but not in dramatic fashion. “Jeremy looked good today, and I’d expect his minutes to increase,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said after practice at the University of San Francisco. “I definitely expect to tick it up, but I don’t think it’s going to be a huge jump because it’s incremental and gradual.”
Lin pronounced himself fit after getting through back-to-back games at Denver and Golden State before two lengthy practice sessions the past two days in the Bay Area. “I feel really good right now,” Lin said Tuesday. “I’m just getting more confident with my body. I’m pretty much ready to jump into it, and I feel like I’ve had enough reps for myself to have the rhythm I need.”
He understands his playing time will make only a small jump, likely into the range of 18-20 minutes per game. Atkinson said the restriction definitely makes it more difficult for Lin to reassert himself in charge of the team.
“There’s no doubt about it,” Atkinson said. “It’s hard on everybody. But you have to look in the best interests of the player and our future.”
It made sense to sit Lin in a blowout loss at Denver. But the Nets were within striking distance late in the third at Golden State, and Lin only could watch as the game got away.
“As a competitor, I would love to play in the fourth quarter, but I understand the program I’m on,” Lin said. “It’s more trying to value every possession I do have out there and really enjoying whatever opportunities I have.”
The Nets (9-49) are on an epic 16-game losing streak, but the Kings (25-35) have lost two straight since trading away All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins during the All-Star break. Willie Cauley-Stein has taken over at center, and while he’s a formidable defensive presence, he’s not nearly the same kind of offensive threat as Cousins.
Lin knows it will be vital to go early to Nets center Brook Lopez, who scored only nine points in the loss to the Warriors. “I would love to get him touches in a variety of ways,” Lin said. “That’s been my thing with him is: How can I get him in transition? How can I get him on pick-and-rolls? How can I get him on pick-and-pops? How can I get him on the block? How can I get him on short rolls?
“I want to get him a variety of touches in a lot of different ways, and I think that makes it harder to guard.”
Lin said the Nets haven’t specifically targeted the Kings game as a good opportunity to snap their losing streak. “I’m sure we’ll be thinking, ‘Let’s get this win,’” Lin said. “But it’s never really been as much about snapping a streak as it is about getting a win and doing things the right way.”
Notes & quotes: Atkinson said rookie Caris LeVert (illness) will return to the starting lineup at small forward against the Kings.