Jeremy Lin got into 29 games his rookie season with the Golden State Warriors, trying to develop his game and find his place in the NBA (which he eventually discovered in New York, but that’s a whole other documentary). Lin’s time in the bay overlapped with a young Stephen Curry, who was in his second season and on his path that would eventually lead to two MVPs and four rings (and counting).
Lin saw the potential in that 22-year-old Curry, the way Don Nelson had when the former coach pushed the franchise to draft the skinny kid out of Davidson. But Lin told Sky Sports in an interview this week that Warriors coach Keith Smart didn’t see Curry as a guy who would change the game, as franchise cornerstone and star, and didn’t treat him well.
“I was with him my rookie year. The coach that we had didn’t believe that much in Steph and would bench him a lot, get on him, yell at him a lot, was just really tough on him…
“It almost became normal that every fourth quarter, he would get benched for a certain stretch. I felt that would shake any player to some degree and even though his confidence would kind of waver a little bit – because of the way that he was being coached – he had a deep, deep, very strong belief that he was a great player and that he would become a great player, and that the way things were going at that time was not how they were always going to go… There’s just this aura that he had of ‘There’s no shot I can’t hit. I can hit and I can catch fire at any point. If you give me one shot and it goes in, you might be in trouble the rest of the night’….
“I did not think he was going to be that good,” Lin said. “But I didn’t understand why Steph was treated the way he was in that one season I was there. I felt like he was really, really good. As poorly as he was treated, he still averaged 18 or 19 points. I thought, ‘Imagine when this guy gets a couple more years of experience under his belt, and really gets the reins, the keys to the franchise, what he will be able to do’.”
Smart has long praised Curry when asked about him. Smart comes from the Bobby Knight tough love school (sometimes overly tough in Knight’s case), and maybe he saw benching Curry and being hard on him as something that the young star could handle, something that would make him tougher. I’m not sure Curry saw it that way.
Steph, talking about Wiseman's struggles, said the youngster will be fine: "I used to get benched for Acie Law."
— Marcus Thompson II (@ThompsonScribe) January 19, 2021
Curry had other hurdles to clear to become the legend he is now, and clearing those was difficult with the bad ankles that had him missing games his third year in the league and holding him back early in his career. Those bad ankles led to a below-market rookie contract extension that, in some ways, financially set up the Warriors dynasty.
Lin, now a star in the Chinese league, has done one thing as well as Curry — build himself as an international brand. That has set Lin up financially and, more importantly, given him a platform to speak out on social issues, such as the racism Asians face in America.