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A few thoughts on Jason Kidd’s longevity in the NBA and finding the next Jeremy Lin

Jason Kidd wants to play 20 years. 18 down, 2 more to go.

Two Jeremy Lin posts, am I contributing to the problem?

Well this isn’t really about Jeremy Lin…but more about Jeremy Lin-types and the question that keeps coming up in relation to him playing so well after having been discarded a few times. That question is, Are there more Jeremy Lins out there? How can we find them?

A few days ago Jason Kidd surpassed Michael Jordan’s career steals total. Kidd is an 18 year veteran and from what I’ve seen thus far this season he’s still making the case for his roster spot. Something that Kidd said stuck out to me:

“Being a passer can keep you in the league a lot longer, if I was a scorer I’d probably be out of the league a long time ago.”

It was fitting that the day after I read that I quote, I ran across this blog post on GQ by Oklahoma Thunder Nick Collison where he talks a little bit about what guys like him, the non-stars and non-shooters can do to achieve longevity in the NBA. He says:

Before most of us entered the League, we were one of the main scoring options on our college teams. Offenses were designed to get us the ball. We got features in the media and received all the accolades. When you make an NBA roster, that all changes. All of a sudden, you find yourself on a different level of the totem pole, and you have to adjust. Each team may have three to five guys who consistently find themselves creating their own shots. The other ten guys on a roster have to learn to play off of those guys and find ways to create value for themselves. You create value for yourself by doing enough positive things to make your coach keep you on the floor. The guys who have success in the league and stick around are the ones who understand how to make themselves valuable to an organization.  You do this by embracing your role and focusing on things other than scoring.

I think Collinson gets it right as it pertains to guys who never had marquee names. Those guys have to prove their value to teams  in order to stay in the league. Although Kidd made a huge name for himself a few years in New Jersey he was never a guy who carried a lot of hype-and because of that he’s had to alter his game over time to show that he can make a legitimate contribution to whatever he team he plays for. I don’t see that Kidd has been giving any passes, really.

If the guys who DID carry a lot of hype at one time, for example, Vince Carter, had to live by the same rules as the guys who never did (i.e. contribute consistently or say goodbye) we might be looking at a different league right now. The fact is, from my perspective, there are guys who are still in the league simply because they once had a name.

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If you look at what happened to Lin specifically, he was only put in because the Knicks were perilously close to a depleted roster with PG Baron Davis out with injury. Now that Davis is back, he’s made it clear that he doesn’t really give a shit if he plays or not. I think we knew that before he alluded to it. With the need to “win right away” it’s clear that teams are generally reluctant to take the risk associated with giving guys a chance off the bench if there is a better known proven player on the roster even if that guy hasn’t proven anything lately. I TOTALLY understand that-let’s be honest, there’s a finite number of guys who can start in the NBA. NBA benches are not full of Lebron James’ in-waiting. But are there more Lins out there? I have no idea but you won’t find out if you insist upon subjecting me to the likes of Tracy McGrady.

I guess my point is that people can talk about the need for “better scouting” (btw, I think that point is overstated) and things of that nature but sometimes you just don’t know what someone can do until they’re given a chance. Before folks get all reductive with what I’m saying, I’m not suggesting older guys be unceremoniously booted out of the league on their ass…there’s lots of 13 plus year veterans who are perfectly capable. And Carter even continues to have great games here and there.  I’m just posing the question as to whether opportunities for younger guys are further reduced by refusing to let go of what was once but now only sorta is on some nights.

Feel free to disagree…I’m in a mood so I may have been harsh.

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