In his first season with the Hawks, Jeremy Lin wants to stay healthy.
After playing in just 37 games over the past two seasons, new Hawks guard Lin isn’t setting any concrete goals for the 2018-19 NBA season except for the lone priority.
Acquired in a trade from the Nets in July, Lin played 25 minutes and scored 18 points in last season’s opener when he ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee. After not even a full game, he spent the rest of the season in Vancouver doing hours of rehab.
Almost a year later, Lin said was at Hawks media day Monday. He said he has been “fully cleared for everything” and hasn’t experienced a setback. However, the team will monitor how daily practices and eventual games affect his knee.
“I just know I want to have fun, I want to be healthy and I just want to play again. That’s what I miss the most,” Lin said. “I think most seasons, I come in with a very clearly defined agenda and things that I want to see happen and goals, but having the game taken away from me for such a long time, I just want to play and have fun.”
The Hawks announced prior to media day that Lin has returned to regular basketball activities with limited restrictions. He is expected to participate in training camp, which begins Tuesday.
After a hamstring injury limited him to 36 games in 2016 with the Nets, the 30-year-old Lin knows it will be a challenge to get back to the level at which he was playing when “Linsanity” thrust him into the spotlight with the Knicks. He still thinks he has some gas left in the tank entering his 10th NBA season.
“I think being hurt for so long, I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a question I was asking myself,” Lin said when asked how much more basketball he thinks he can play. “I don’t know, but I’m not afraid of the challenge. ... I’m not worried about it. I haven’t put many miles on my body the past two years in terms of going through a lot of wear and tear besides the injury, so I haven’t been playing 82 games the past two years.
“I feel I have plenty to give and I’m also just excited to see what the rehabbed version of me will look like on an actual NBA floor in an actual NBA game.”
While Lin, one of the veterans first-year head coach Lloyd Pierce signed in the offseason, said he wants to enjoy his time spent playing on the floor this season, part of that enjoyment is contingent upon winning.
Pierce has not revealed whether Lin or rookie Trae Young will start at point guard for the Hawks, but Lin seemed not bothered by the buzz around the talented rookie because he knows whoever starts, the two can make each other better.
“I think the thing that people don’t talk about for (Young) is he can score, he can shoot 3’s, but he can also pass. (He had) lot of assists last year,” Lin said. “I think for me, anyone who’s talented and wants to play to win and wants to play for their teammates, that’s somebody I feel like is very easy to play with.”
Averaging 27.4 points and 8.7 assists last season at Oklahoma, Young’s ability to share the ball as well as fill the role of offensive leader proves to Lin that his young teammate shares his willingness to do what it takes to win. It’s an attitude Lin thinks the Hawks desperately need to turn the franchise around.
The Hawks notched a 24-58 record last season under former coach Mike Budenholzer, the team’s worst record since the 2004-05 season.
“We’re not in a position where we can’t pick and choose who we want (on the floor),” Lin said. “We are not in a position of power. We have a lot to prove. This is a team that’s coming off being the worst in the Eastern Conference and so we have to embrace the position that we’re in and realize we need every last bit of everybody’s contribution to make it work.”
The Hawks first exhibition game will be played on Oct. 1 against the Pelicans at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion.