NEW YORK — Jeremy Lin didn’t even make it through one full game this season.
He plans to return next season playing a different way so he can stay on the floor and help the Brooklyn Nets keep building.
Lin played in just 36 games in 2016-17 due to hamstring injuries and ruptured his right patella tendon in a loss at Indiana on opening night of this season. His plan to stay healthy focuses on ditching all the on-court motor skills that started Linsanity six years ago across the city with the New York Knicks in exchange for a new range of motion.
“So, like, at every level of ability to be more dynamic, I’m not just looking at whether my knee will hold up. I’m looking at whether I have done enough to completely change pre-existing movement patterns,” Lin said Thursday, a day after the Nets finished 28-54, their third consecutive 50-loss season after three straight playoff appearances.
The Nets won seven of their last 13 games after losing 19 of 22.
The 29-year-old Lin spent a large chunk of his rehab process at Fortius Sport and Health in Vancouver, British Columbia, under his personal trainer, Rick Celebrini, who in the past worked with former NBA star Steve Nash.
Running, shooting and defending will all seem new for Lin, who signed a three-year, $36 million deal with the Nets in July 2016, and in February opted in to his $12.5 million player option.
“It won’t look different to the eye, or on TV any different, but it will be very different in terms of how I do it, and where I move from and what muscles I’m using and what tendons and joints I’m not using,” Lin said.
His injury led to the development of others at point guard.
Spencer Dinwiddie became a candidate for the Most Improved Player award after averaging career highs with 12.6 points and 6.6 assists. Coach Kenny Atkinson and general manager Sean Marks also got a good look at D’Angelo Russell, who took over Lin’s duties, but then needed knee suffer that forced him out until mid-January. Once the 22-year-old returned to the court, he showed flashes of why the Los Angeles Lakers made him the No. 2 pick of the 2015 draft before including him in the Brook Lopez deal last summer.
Add in Allen Crabbe, who struggled at times but set the franchise season-single record of 201 3-pointers made; an improved defender in second-year player Caris LeVert; a young shot-blocker in rookie Jarrett Allen; and the rising play of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson along with the veteran presence of DeMarre Carroll, Lin has a reason to feel optimistic.
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Lin was asked how he would define progress in what could be his final season in a Nets uniform.
“I’m a very results-oriented person, and I’m a very wins-oriented person,” he said. “My answer would be wins. I don’t love moral victories. We just need to win more games, and we need to, hopefully, win a lot.”
Joe Harris averaged 10.8 points and enjoyed career-bests in field goal shooting (49.1 percent) and 3-point makes (41.9 percent). The former Cleveland guard is one of four unrestricted free agents and could become too expensive for the Nets, who have about $16 million available in their cap space.
He’s already told his agent and the front office his preference to stay.
“Yeah, I think any time you’re comfortable playing within a system you’re going to play more aggressive, you’re going to play with more confidence,” Harris said.
“It’s not to say you would go someplace else and not be able to adjust quickly, but I think being here and having a familiarity with everyone . it just makes the game easier for you and understanding where you need to be and what they expect out of you.”
Russell fell out of favor in Los Angeles but his teammates in Brooklyn praised his play and work ethic.
“His talent, nobody in this room or arena will question his talent. You just want him to do it consistently”, Carroll said. “D’Angelo is probably the closest thing we have to an All-Star on our team if he did it consistently. Me, being his big brother, being a leader, I just challenge him to come in and hit it hard every day.”
Sharing the backcourt with Dinwiddie over the last three months of the season, Russell played on and off the ball and averaged 15.5 points and a career-high 5.2 assists. He often mentioned his commitment to Brooklyn’s long-term future.
“I came into this situation, played a few games and got hurt, went down and come back,” Russell said. “I had to earn my stripes all over again and start over. That’s kind of what it really was, the reality of it, the whole situation. I had to gain Coach’s trust back and show them that I was willing to do that again.”