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Jeremy Lin knows whatever his role, it will be an important one

LOS ANGELES -- Jeremy Lin is technically not the Los Angeles Lakers' starting point guard.

When the Lakers printed out their starting lineup before Thursday's preseason game against the Golden State Warriors, Lin was listed as a backup to Steve Nash.

The truth is Lin figures to start more games this season than Nash, who will turn 41 in February and played in only 15 games last season. Lin also figures to play more minutes than Nash even in games he doesn't start.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, least of all Nash, who said he understands the Lakers can't depend on him as an every-day starter at this point in his career.

So on Thursday night Lin played his first game at Staples Center as a Laker, and, not surprisingly, it was as a starter after Lakers coach Byron Scott gave Nash the night off. It's a position Lin, who finished with 14 points, four assists and four rebounds, should get used to this season, even if he hasn't been given the chance to get used to it during practice yet.

"I thought it went fine," Lin said of his first time starting alongside Kobe Bryant. "I haven't even taken reps with the first team in practice, so this is the first time I did anything with him pretty much. It's just a growth process and learning each other's spots. I think the second half we were a lot more comfortable than in the first half."

Scott has talked to Lin about his role, which doesn't really change whether he's a starter or coming off the bench. The only real difference is whether he will hear his name being called during opening introductions.

"He's got to be ready every night," Scott said. "Every game might be different. That's one of the things we have that we just don't know with Steve right now. Jeremy knows every game he's going to play, but there's going to be games that he's going to start and he's going to have to play a lot more minutes."

Lin can be a playmaker in the open court and create his own shots, as he did Thursday, but with Nash's uncertain health and Nick Young sidelined for the next eight weeks, the Lakers' depth is already being challenged. Without Young, Lin was a possible scoring threat coming off the bench, but if he is forced to start, that role could go to someone like Julius Randle, Wayne Ellington or Jordan Clarkson, who suffered a left calf strain in the second quarter Thursday and didn't return.

"I don't think [my role] changes," Lin said. "I think my usage rate will go up, but in terms of what I'm doing, it's going to be the same, maybe just a little more of what I'm supposed to do."

Lin and Nash worked out a few times in the offseason, and Lin hasn't been shy about asking Nash's advice on running an offense and being a better point guard.

"I've been talking to him, and he told me how to play cat and mouse and change of pace and deception," Lin said. "I've learned the most just from watching him, but I ask him questions as well."

As much as Nash would like to play this season, he understands he is essentially an extension of the coaching staff. When he's sitting out games and practices, he can still have an impact on the team and Lin, in particular.

"I'm here to help him out however I can," Nash said. "If I can help give him advice or help with his game, then it will be a pleasure for me. I think he's got a lot of potential, and he's already kind of cemented himself in the league, so whatever he needs from me I'd love to help and I'd love to see him really succeed."

When the Lakers are at full strength, Scott will also experiment with a backcourt of Nash and Lin in which either player can bring the ball up and create for the other.

"I feel like when we play together, either of us can bring the ball up," Lin said. "He can score the ball, so my job is to make sure I put him in a position where he can score the ball and where he likes it the best. We'll both be able to facilitate and create for each other."

The biggest issue for the Lakers on Thursday in their 120-105 loss to the Warriors was defense. It was the Lakers' biggest problem last season and the biggest point of emphasis during training camp. They let the Warriors shoot 56 percent from the field, 57.1 percent from beyond the arc and gave up 22 second-chance points. Lin will never be confused with an all-defensive player, but Bryant has been pushing him to be better on that end of the floor.

"I'm really going to challenge him to be a great defensive player because he can," Bryant said. "He has the speed, he has the length, he has the size, but he's never had to take on that challenge, but I think he can be a great defensive player."

Lin has embraced Bryant's advice and can often be seen talking to him during practices and through the first two preseason games. Bryant knows Lin is a talented offensive player, but the majority of their conversations during practices and games have centered on defense.

"That's pretty much all I talk to him about on the court," Lin said. "He's pushing me and he's demanding a lot from me. He’s definitely taken on a mentorship role for me on the court. That's something that I don't think I've had in my previous four years in the league. It's just nice to have somebody who is pushing me and helping me and teaching me the tricks. It's also nice when he's one of the best to ever do it."