The list of players whose success grew after they left the Warriorsis long and paints a not-so-flattering portrayal of the franchise. If you’re on the Warriors’ roster and seeking stardom, history suggests you should head elsewhere.
Like Jeremy Lin did.
Lin is the latest former Warrior to hit it big with another team, averaging 28.3 points and 8.3 assists during the Knicks’ current five-game win streak. What’s even harder for some Warriors fans to stomach isLin is a Bay Area native whose signing was championed by none other than the franchise’s owner, Joe Lacob.
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“You can’t refute the facts,” Warriors general manager Larry Riley said. “History is history. Those guys went on to prove they were really good players. Jeremy is on a roll right now, so we’ll just have to see.”
Undrafted out ofHarvard, Lin first attracted some buzz after playing well in a July 2010 summer league game against the top pick of that year’s draft, Washington Wizards point guard John Wall. The Warriors long had been intrigued about adding an Asian player to an NBA market considering the Bay Area’s high Asian population. Lin, a Taiwanese-American, also was a local star – who’d grown up with a poster of formerWarrior Latrell Sprewell on his bedroom wall – after leading Palo Alto High School to a state title.
Lacob was fond of Lin, who he’d known since seeing Lin play against Lacob’s son, Kirk, when both were younger. When Lin signed his non-guaranteed contract shortly after the summer league, the Warriors even gave him a news conference because of the media interest. Riley, however, thought Lin neededto greatly improve his shooting and defense if he was going to have any success in the NBA.
“As a rookie, he had this funny little hitch when he was shooting,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said of Lin. “He kind of leaned to one side and kicked his right leg out. We always made fun of it. It looked weird. It looked like he was overexerting on the jump shot.”
Then-Warriors coach Keith Smart urgedLin to not solely rely on his driving ability, fearing he’d get his shot blocked regularly. While he was with the Warriors, Lin worked daily with assistant coaches Stephen Silas and Lloyd Pierce on his shooting and midrange game.
“His work ethic is incredible,” Smart said.
Lin averaged a modest 2.6 points and 1.5 assists in 29 games as a rookie with the Warriors, scoring a season-high 13against the Los Angeles Lakers. Even so, Lin ranked third among the Warriors in fan popularity, trailing only Curry and Monta Ellis.
“He wasn’t comfortable at all with [the attention] and didn’t like it at all,” said Smart, now the Sacramento Kings head coach. “He said, ‘Coach, I don’t like it.’ But I said, ‘Embrace it because this window is not a long window. It’s not like you’re a golfer and you canplay until you’re 55.’ ”
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Lin did show flashes of his potential last season during his stay with the Reno Big Horns of the NBA Development League. He averaged 18 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 20 games, and then-Reno coach Eric Musselman, a former Warriors head coach who is now guiding the Los Angeles D-Fenders, wasimpressed with Lin’s “mean streak” and confidence.
Lin's agent told Warriors officials they were making a mistake by releasing the guard. All Lin has done since is save the Knicks' season.
“I felt, at best, he was an NBA starter eventually,” Musselman said. “I could envision him scoring 20 in an NBA game, but not this quickly. Not over and over. But you couldn’t put anything...