In what marked a rare feel-good moment during an otherwise trying offseason, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak offered a remark that caught Jeremy Lin by surprise.
“Three times is a charm,” said Kupchak. He then detailed how the Lakers tried to sign Lin in 2010 as an undrafted rookie before choosing Golden State because it was closer to home. The Lakers then applied for a waiver claim when the Warriors dropped Lin in 2011, but the Houston Rockets earned the rights because of a worse record. The Lakers finally landed Lin this month after Houston traded him and a first-and-second round pick in a salary dump in an unsuccessful attempt to land Miami forward Chris Bosh.
Much has changed since the Lakers’ initial pursuit toward Lin. He garnered national attention for a breakout season in New York three years ago. Last season with Houston, Lin lost his starting job to Patrick Beverly after averaging 12.5 points and 4.1 assists.
Yet, as much as Lin labeled his arrival with the Lakers as a “fresh start,” he downplayed trying to provide a worthy sequel to “Linsanity.”
“I’m not trying to relive that banner season and I think that’s been a big weight off my shoulder,” said Lin, who spent lots of his 25-minute news conference on Thursday detailing how his Christian faith helped mature him. “I’m not trying to be that phenomenon that happened in New York. I just want to be myself more than ever.”
The Lakers will still lean on Lin in various facets.
The Lakers need reinforcements at point guard because of Steve Nash’s recurring back injuries that limited him last season to 15 games. To a lesser degree, the Lakers lost Kendall Marshall after waiving him to clear cap space. But Lin maintained he will stay in what he called “attack mode” both regardless of Nash’s health and whether Lin starts or comes off the bench.
“I obviously believe I can start for an NBA team and help that team win,” said Lin, who gushed about Nash’s passing and playmaking off pick-and-rolls. “As a competitor, I would obviously love to. But that’s not me coming in saying I need this or need that. I want to be a part of the team.’”
Lin, the first American-born NBA player of Taiwanese descent, already provided a huge draw in expanding the Lakers’ global band. Several Asian media outlets attended Lin’s press conference on Thursday and are bound to flood the Lakers’ locker room next season, feeding an overseas appetite that already craves Kobe Bryant.
“Kobe is an idol in Asia, obviously,” said Lin, who noted most fans immediately switching from Rockets to Lakers jerseys during a recent promotional trip there for Adidas. “They already owned Lakers apparel. That’s something that I noticed. I was trying to find some Lakers stuff myself and get a hat.”
Lin has texted and spoken with Bryant since the trade. But unlike several young NBA players, Lin never emulated Bryant.
“His skill set is just clearly different than mine,” Lin said, smiling. “I don’t think I’ve ever shot a fadeaway jumper from the mid-post ever.”
Instead, Lin sounded more interested in consulting Bryant about his sharpening his preparation and mental toughness.
“I’ve developed and made my own structure and rhythm and how I approach the season and my workouts look like. I would love to see what his look like as well, said Lin, who recently provided testimony how his Christian faith relieved his anxieties. “Kobe, anybody who wins as much as he does, definitely has the mental edge on eveybody else. That;s something I would love to learn.”
Hence, why Lin downplayed the Rockets featuring his No. 7 during their unsuccessful pitch to Carmelo Anthony (“I wasn’t upset,” said Lin, who will wear No. 17 since Xavier Henry wears No. 7. “I just felt like they could’ve kept it internal”). Or why Lin took no offense to Rockets guard James Harden describing himself and Dwight Howard as the team’s “cornerstones” while calling everyone else “role players.” (“It didn’t affect me at all,” Lin said. “I agree with his statements”).
Most importantly, even with the Lakers aiming to accelerate their rebuilding, Lin offered no hint of worry about carrying the burden.
“I have the least amount of pressure on my shoulders now than I ever had,” said Lin, whose $14.9 million contract expires after next season. “I don’t think I play well when Id o put a lot of pressure on myself from an outside standpoint. I know what I want to accomplish as a player. As long as I do that, I can hold my head up high and be proud of myself.”
Jeremy Lin downplays preference to start or come off the bench
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org