Scott Fowler

Jeremy Lin makes Hornets better, but hype beyond that is ‘Linsanity’

Jeremy Lin? I like it.

The Charlotte Hornets officially signed Jeremy Lin as their backup point guard Thursday, upgrading both their second unit and their star power.

Lin has fallen quite a ways since his “Linsanity” days with the New York Knicks. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated for two consecutive weeks in February 2012, and he remains the first American of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA.

But back-to-back SI covers from three years ago are no reason to sign somebody. The reason to sign Lin is far simpler than that. He will make the Hornets more dangerous offensively, and he will make them better overall.

Lin will fit in better with this team than Lance Stephenson ever did, and at a much more reasonable price. He’s shaky defensively, but coach Steve Clifford can work on that. And the Harvard product can score: Lin has a career average of 11.7 points per game.

Lin has a career average of 11.7 points per game.

The one thing the Hornets have proved this offseason is that they are determined to put more points on the scoreboard even if it means they are less effective defensively.

“We’ve made an effort to upgrade the offense and there’s probably always going to be a little bit of tradeoff,” Hornets general manager Rich Cho acknowledged Thursday in a conference call to announce Lin’s signing. “But I’m confident that our coaching staff will get our guys to play good defense still.”

The bloom has been off the rose on Lin for awhile in terms of him being a full-time NBA starter. That didn’t work out in Houston or Los Angeles.

Lin, 26, was courted around the league as a backup this time, and he will play behind Kemba Walker in Charlotte. Obviously, he’s fine with that since he displayed the Hornets’ logo on his Instagram account as a way of “announcing” his signing late Wednesday night.

 

A photo posted by Jeremy Lin (@jlin7) on

Lin will not be the savior for these Charlotte Hornets. He will not lead the Hornets to “the promised land,” to use the term that GM Dave Gettleman used when the Carolina Panthers announced Cam Newton’s $103 million signing recently.

Lin is a good NBA player but not a great one. Don’t overhype this move.

But don’t say it’s a marketing ploy by the Hornets, either, because it isn’t.

There will be a few Hornets “Lin” jerseys sold, yes, but that’s not the point. The point is scoring more points and getting the ball to other second-unit guys who can score but who have trouble creating their shots, such as Spencer Hawes or Frank Kaminsky, and Lin (4.8 assists per game for his career) can do that.

Say this for the Hornets: Their games are going to be more entertaining. I am not a big fan of Brian Roberts, so making Roberts the third point guard rather than Kemba’s primary backup makes sense to me.

This is a risk worth taking for the Hornets.

This is a risk worth taking for the Hornets, and hopefully it will be a good move for Lin too. He did not do well with the L.A. Lakers last season. But he can get into the paint, he can shoot the 3 and he is really good in the pick and roll.

I can see situations where Lin gets hot in the third quarter and Steve Clifford plays a hunch, leaves him in during the fourth and lets him play alongside Walker. Lin will basically take the roster spot of Mo Williams, and Clifford did that some with Williams when he got going.

It’s not going to be “Linsanity” around Charlotte – that lightning bolt has come and gone. But this will be a better team with Lin on it.

Fowler: sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @scott_fowler

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