#IMHO: Jeremy Lin, Dad Bron and Team USA

Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace have been covering the NBA since shorts were short and socks were long, but their opinions about the League don’t always mesh. #IMHO is their weekly chance to weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.


From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Tuesday, July 30, 2019 10:10 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: #IMHO



As we enter the dog days of summer, when NBA rosters are mostly set and transactions slow to a crawl, we usually start talking more about hypotheticals than actual news. Which I think is one reason why there’s been a lot of talk this week about Jeremy Lin. Just a few months ago he won a title as a member of the Toronto Raptors, and this week while in Taiwan, a tearful Lin talked about how free agency has been “rock bottom” for him.


#JeremyLin speaks candidly about how difficult free agency has been for him. • (: GOOD TV)

A post shared by TSN (@tsn_official) on

I remember being in New York City during Linsanity, which was such a surreal time. The Knicks were fighting with Time Warner Cable when it all started, so you couldn’t even watch Knicks games on TV in Manhattan. Instead, everyone had to go to bars to watch, which created this cool bonding experience between fans who were so thirsty for anything good to happen. And Lin was pretty amazing, to the point where local shops started carrying Linsanity pennants and t-shirts. I also will always remember the great quote from then Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni, who when asked if he was going to continue to ride Lin, said, “I’m riding him like friggin’ Secretariat.”

We’re obviously far from that time, but what do we make of Lin’s recent comments? Was he just in his feelings, or do you think this was a case of an athlete facing the end of his NBA run and having to accept a terrible truth?


Jeremy Lin hoists 2019 NBA Finals championship trophy



From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Tuesday, July 30, 2019 2:44 PM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: RE: #IMHO


Jeremy Lin was at best an NBA role player. And I love Jeremy Lin. I got a chance to spend some meaningful time with him for a profile piece when I was with ESPN, a bit after the intial Linsanity craze had died down and he had gotten a nice, fat contract from Houston. Bottom line is this, he’s an NBA journeyman point guard who is approaching his 31st birthday next month. He’s played nearly a decade in the NBA and was deemed valuable enough at one point to have a poison pill added to his free-agent contract to discourage a team from matching his salary when he was a restricted free agent.

Jeremy Lin has had a really good run in the NBA, one capped by a championship ring this past season in Toronto. If he doesn’t bounce another ball in the NBA again, his story is made for a Disney-type movie. All that said, I get it. He’s feeling a bit down because he’s among the unsigned free agents still looking for a home in the middle of the summer. Lin is still a capable backup who can land at the end of some team’s roster when training camps open in late September. But reality sometimes sucks and can be sobering. Lin is always a straight shooter and is as transparent as they come in the NBA. I appreciate his sensitivity on this. He’ll have a role in the NBA for years to come, either on or off the court.

Lang, even after taking a week off last week, we still can’t go more than a few days without LeBron James dominating the headlines. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the middle of the season or the middle of the summer. Now, LeBron is catching some heat – but also getting plenty of support – for his theatrics and boisterous celebrations on the sidelines at AAU games featuring his son, LeBron James Jr., who is developing into a rising young prospect. Is Pops doing too much to bring attention to himself? Or is he simply a father who should be left alone to celebrate and support his kids any way he wants publicly? Personally, I’m cool with the celebrating and leaping high-fives on the baselines. But stepping into the kids’ layup line and throwing down All-Star Weekend dunks is a bit over the top. But it’s all love.



LeBron James Jr., LeBron James Sr. and Bryce Maximus James



From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Wednesday, July 31, 2019 9:44 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: RE: #IMHO

I have zero problems with anything LeBron James wants to do. He can live his life, and I can live mine, and let’s all just agree that while we might disagree with some decisions each other makes, why do we have to publicly blast each other? I don’t know about other kids, but if I was on a team with high school kids and LeBron freaking James ran out and jumped in my team’s layup line and started throwing down windmill dunks, I’d probably be pretty fired up. LeBron running out onto the court to give his kid a high five seems a little extra, unless it was like his first time ever dunking, but whatever, I think we can all live with it.

Mike, you and I are both fathers who have kids who play sports. Not every parent engages the same way or cheers the same way. I usually try to stand back and let the coach do his job and be as supportive as I can be. I’ve seen other parents on their phones the entire game or chatting with each other the whole time, or barely even paying attention. So it can go a bunch of different ways, and I’m sure if you look hard enough you will find someone willing to get angry about whichever way a parent is parenting. (And apparently you don’t even have to look all that hard to find someone willing to go on TV and get angry about LeBron’s parenting.) I say we live and let live a little.

All I know is LeBron better invite me over for one of these Taco Tuesday’s…

Mike, we are just a few weeks away from the FIBA Basketball World Cup tipping off in China, and American superstars have been fleeing Team USA as though George Karl was named coach again. At this point, the biggest names on the roster are guys like Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry and Kemba Walker.

Should we be concerned? Or is this exactly the type of roster of workmen-like grinders that coach Gregg Popovich can transform into a team good enough to beat other world powers?


FIBA Team USA 2018



From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Wednesday, July 31, 2019 11:15 AM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: RE: #IMHO

This USA national team ordeal tends to go in cycles. Back when the Dream Team played in 1992, it sparked a growth and awareness and infatuation that transformed the game into a global sensation. The impact of what that team, anchored by Jordan, Barkley, Magic and Bird, did for the game, the NBA’s global brand and sponsors of each player, still resonates to this day. Soon after, just about every player in the league wanted to be a part of USA Team action. Then it went through a stretch in the early 2000s, when players backed away and the image of Team USA took a hit.

Then, the Kobes, LeBrons, Wades and Durants got back involved, and it became cool and the thing to do again. And now, it seems to be on a non-cool run. It’s disappointing to see players first commit to being on the national team, knowing full well how the schedule plays out years down the line, and then decide to back out. It’s almost like a fad. That said, I get how there’s been so much player movement in free agency that guys want to focus on preparing for their new teams or new teammates. I also understand how the FIBA World Cup ends just two weeks before NBA training camps start. It’s still a bad look to bail.

But this league is so deep and there are so many bright young stars, that there will always be some intriguing names that surface. Guys are ready to step up and fill some of that void. And I also think it benefits Pop and his style to have a group of lower-key stars to coach. He doesn’t have to bend as much and cater to the elite superstars of the league this summer. It can be about his system and culture and team-first approach. Bottom line is I don’t really like how we got here, but this probably ended up being best for where Team USA is at this stage.

Lang, we’ll end on this: With the NBA set to roll out the 2019-2020 season schedules, we’ve got a potential dilemma on our hands. Usually, NBA opening night features the defending champs holding their ring ceremony before playing in a marquee matchup. There’s only one problem. The Raptors will be without the guy that led them to the title in Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who bolted to join the Clippers. Talk about awkward! If you’re in charge of scheduling with the league, is this the year to break with tradition and go with another, far more attractive double-header matchup and risk alienating the North? Or do we just roll with what we’ve always done, potential ratings and interest level be damned?


Patrick Beverly and Kawhi Leonard face off during match



From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Thursday, August 1, 2019 8:53 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: RE: #IMHO


Before I get to your question, I really like your thought about how Pop is perhaps the perfect guy to lead Team USA at this point in time. I appreciate that he’s seen success in the NBA, but he’s also been around when Team USA had some of their lower moments—don’t forget that Pop was an assistant on Larry Brown’s staff when Team USA laid an egg in Athens back in 2004. Pop has his work cut out for him, but yeah, I can’t think of a better person to take control right now.

As for opening night, I’ve got a solution: Let’s let the Clippers open the season at Toronto. Then you can have the ring ceremony, and give Kawhi his ring and let him receive a mixture of cheers and boos, and then let the defending champs go out and get blown out, which seems to always happen on ring ceremony night. Either that or save the matchup for the Christmas Day slate, but by then it might be anticlimactic. I’d rather we open with Kawhi’s return and get it out of the way.

(And how funny would it be if the Clippers sit Kawhi when they play the Raptors in the interest of “rest management?”)

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