LAS VEGAS -- Four years after Linsanity, Jeremy Lin returns to New York a different player, a more mature person, and with a much different role.
Lin said Saturday he signed a three-year, $36 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency because he was given an opportunity that has been rare during his six-year NBA career: to quarterback a team as the starting point guard.
"It's going to be collective, and Brook [Lopez] is going to be a big, big part of it as well as other players," Lin, speaking while watching the Nets at the Las Vegas Summer League, said in his first public comments since signing his new deal. "But I'm definitely coming in [understanding] what my role is. I'm the playmaker. I'm the point guard. I've got to lead. I've got to be an extension of the coach, and I'm not shying away from that role at all.
"For me, being 27 now, that's something I wanted. It's a challenge I wanted to embrace, and I can't wait to do that. ... I'm going to be the guy bringing it up the floor and leading the team. And that's definitely something that appealed to me."
In six seasons with five teams, Lin has been a full-time starter for only one of those seasons, during the 2012-13 season in Houston, where he started 82 games and averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists.
After enjoying a successful season in Charlotte, averaging 11.7 points off the bench, Lin said he was looking for a long-term home with a bigger role.
New Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, who developed a strong relationship with Lin as an assistant coach with the Knicks during the 2011-12 season, when Lin exploded on the NBA scene, pitched to Lin a chance to be his floor leader.
"I don't think there will be a quarterback controversy right off the bat," Atkinson joked when asked about handing the ball over to Lin. "I think that everybody thinks Jeremy's best position is that combo guard off the bench. We took a little, kind of outside-of-the-box idea and said he can be our full-time point guard."
Lin was born in California; his parents immigrated here from Taiwan in the mid-1970s.
He still has a large following around the U.S., including in New York, where Linsanity was born while he played for the Knicks. Lin averaged 14.6 points, 6.2 assists and 1.6 steals in 35 games with the Knicks in 2011-12. However, during a breakout 11-game stretch, he averaged 23.9 points and 9.1 assists in 2012.
Lin became a phenomenon and an international star in Asia, as well. Now he returns to New York uncertain of what the expectations for him might be in his second New York stint, albeit this time with Brooklyn.
"I am pretty far removed from that," Lin said of his Knicks stint. "I don't forget about it like it's a bad memory. But for me, I am so far past that. In terms of expectations, when I talk about me growing as a person, one of those ways is the expectations for myself, from the team.
"Expectations are going to be the same for me. I am going to go in and keep my mind right, keep trying to play for God. The last few years, I have been able to live with the results. There have been disappointing times -- my Lakers season [in 2014-15], losing in the first round. There definitely are going to be a lot of disappointments. But I know I did things what I felt like was the right way."
Atkinson has built a stellar reputation for developing players, particularly point guards. He said he believes Lin can be a full-time starting point guard despite being given few opportunities to do so.
"I saw it in flashes in New York that he can distribute the ball," Atkinson said. "I think he has got great vision. I think if you look at his attributes, he can play the point-guard position and he can defend the point-guard position. I see him leading our team. I see him being a great pick-and-roll combination with Brook. I think that is part of the reason we got him -- we challenged him with that role."
Atkinson also said he thinks Lin's experience in Brooklyn will be different from his time with the Knicks and the pomp and circumstance surrounding Linsanity.
"I think much different," Atkinson said. "That was a little happenstance, all the things that happened around circumstances. This is a long-term thing, and coming to a system that was maybe a little different to what he was playing in New York. It will be a little different to him. But I think he is smart enough to be able to adjust to a new system, new team. That is one of the things I trust -- his adaptability."