Mazzeo: Atkinson was key component in Nets landing Lin

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Jeremy Lin says that the hiring of head coach Kenny Atkinson was instrumental behind his decision to sign with the Brooklyn Nets, reports Mike Mazzeo of ESPN. 

Lin, the Nets’ prize addition of the summer, notes that he had entertained the idea of playing alongside NBA-behemoth Anthony Davis, but they ultimately weren’t offering as much money as the point-guardless Brooklyn franchise was. The Nets, who tried to unsuccessfully sign Lin to the mini-MLE in 2015, have needed a court leader since they bought out Deron Williams and then, later on, lost Jarrett Jack to a torn ACL in early January. Ironically, Lin told Mazzeo that he wanted to sign with the Dallas Mavericks as a free agent, but once the franchise added Williams, they were out of the picture — so, instead, he went to Charlotte with a player option.

But Atkinson? That changed everything — Mazzeo on their long-standing relationship from his with the New York Knicks:

“I really got to know him and started to appreciate him more,” Atkinson said. “It was really a friendship. Your coach is usually your mentor, but we’d go out and mix it up a bit, playing a lot of one-on-one during my younger days. I think he liked my energy.”

After struggling to mesh with James Harden in Houston and making a quick pit-stop in sunny Los Angeles as a Laker, Lin saw his league-wide value drop to the lowest it had ever been:

“I could count so many players that had a higher market value and a higher contract. It was just like, ‘Wow,'” said Lin, who was the 246th-highest paid NBA player last season, according to ESPN contract data. “I didn’t realize that my value had dropped so much during my one season with the Lakers.”

As Lin weighed his options this summer and free agency opened, it was a meeting with Atkinson, Sean Marks, and Brook Lopez that helped make the difference. Mazzeo writes that Lopez explained how the franchise and Lin could be in a symbiotic relationship, benefiting from each other as the culture evolves into something special — Lin, who will have played for six teams over seven seasons once the Nets tip-off, was sold.

Lin scored 21 points in his first preseason game with the Nets last week and is already a fan-favorite, but it’s tough to imagine how the franchise would be constructed if the point guard hadn’t signed up. Would they have signed Rajon Rondo? Would others like Randy Foye or Trevor Booker followed any other coach to Brooklyn?

The franchise is far from being back, but without the new duo of Atkinson and Lin, it’s safe to say that it’d be darker than ever in Brooklyn.

Up from the depths: How Jeremy Lin got back on point — ESPN — Mike Mazzeo