Charlotte Hornets

Lin’s performance was eye-popping just when the Hornets needed a boost

Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lin filled the box score in Monday’s road victory over the Boston Celtics.
Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lin filled the box score in Monday’s road victory over the Boston Celtics. AP

The Charlotte Hornets don’t have to sweat what to do about free-agency until June and July, but backup point guard Jeremy Lin sure made that a more interesting question with his play Monday against the Boston Celtics.

Lin is scheduled to make about $2.2 million next season, but can instead opt out of his contract to enter unrestricted free-agency. At that salary it seems inevitable that Lin would opt out, even if his first choice would be re-signing with the Hornets.

I’d think, at minimum, Lin could make $5 million a season in a new contract, particularly with the spike in the salary cap due to the new national television revenue.

The Hornets will undoubtedly make re-signing Nic Batum their first priority in free-agency. But what then? If Lin, Marvin Williams and Al Jefferson all have expiring contracts, then what’s the priority list?

I’d say Monday was a bit eye-opening. Lin was spectacular in the first half, scoring 21 of his 25 points. He made all 10 of his free throws. He finished with seven rebounds, five assists and five steals.

[Box score: Hornets vs. Celtics]

[Lin’s hot shooting propels Hornets to big win over the Celtics ]

That was some individual performance at a time when the Hornets desperately needed a boost after looking so awful in Sunday’s loss to the lottery-bound Washington Wizards.

Lin has appropriately declined to discuss the hypotheticals this summer; this isn’t the time for him to be concerned with things other than the upcoming playoffs. But he has been so valuable this season to the Hornets’ makeover.

He takes some playmaking burden off Kemba Walker and he’s versatile enough to perform at both ends of the court at shooting guard. Coach Steve Clifford said as gaudy as Lin’s statistics were Monday, they still didn’t convey all his contribution. As Clifford described, Lin played a big role in the defense that held the Celtics to 38 percent shooting from the field.

I’m guessing once the season is over, Lin is going to have to decide what’s most important to his future: The chance to start somewhere else? The most money? Or the chance for a stable role in a Hornets rotation that has now won 47 games with one left versus the Orlando Magic Wednesday at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Some other thoughts on the night that was in Boston:

The approach to Wednesday: Clifford said pre-game he’s not concerned about whether the Hornets finish fifth or sixth. But he also doesn’t plan to go through the motions against the Magic Wednesday.

Clifford said everyone who is healthy will play, though the starters would likely see fewer minutes than if the Hornets still had a shot at home-court advantage. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nic Batum (ankle sprain) and Cody Zeller (bruised sternum) sit out that game as a precaution.

The matchup with the Celtics: The Hornets broke a four-game losing streak to the Celtics, all coming after the Celtics traded for point guard Isaiah Thomas. Thomas played well Monday with 17 points off 6-of-13 shooting, but it wasn’t the domination Thomas previously achieved in this matchup.

On the other side, Jefferson making his first start since late November might have exposed something. The Celtics had no big man who could effectively guard Jefferson, who finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds.

What’s the deal on Jeremy Lamb? Lamb didn’t play and Clifford said post-game the toe that Lamb strained recently is still bothering him.

So Clifford again went with Troy Daniels off the bench and he performed very well, making 3-of-4 3-pointers.

What happens in the playoffs? Lamb, Daniels or neither one if Clifford tightens up his rotation?

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