Saturday, February 11, 2012

Linspirational Tale

Yes, I too have to jump on the greatest story so far this NBA season: the amazing coming-out party for Jeremy Lin. Unrecruited after a highly-successful high school career. Undrafted by NBA teams after a very good college career. Acquired, and then released, by the Dallas Mavericks in 2010. Buried on the bench in Golden State for 2011. Released by the Warriors to make room for an offer to a restricted free agent that was subsequently matched; in other words, released for nothing. Acquired by the Houston Rockets, and then released to make room for a journeyman center whose minutes have dropped precipitously over the past month (once mid-30s, now under 20). Acquired by the New York Knicks, buried on the end of the bench, shuttled down to the D-League, brought back and pushed the brink of being put on waivers yet again...and then?

The one sports story that has supplanted a Super Bowl champion. In New York City. The media capital of the world. It's nothing short of Lincredible!

By now you've already read and/or heard plenty about Jeremy, so of course I need to cut a different angle than what's been covered (no need to beat a drum that has a thousand musicians standing in line).

First was the silly notion by Stephen A. Smith and others that the game versus the Lakers earlier tonight would prove as some sort of litmus test for Lin. Yes, we know the Lakers are a playoff team, perhaps even a title contender...but have we forgotten that this is the team that was so desperate to upgrade the point position that it was set to trade two-thirds of its front court (Odom and Gasol) to do so? I immediately (read: prior to the game) scoffed at the notion that the Lakers would provide some stiffer level of competition for Lin (and have the tweets to prove it); the ghost of Derek Fisher past and Steve Blake do not put the fear of God into opposing point guards. And, lo and behold, we saw Kobe Bryant switch onto Lin 7 minutes into the game, and everyone from the aforementioneds to Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes taking cracks at trying to slow Lin down. By my count, at least 6 or 7 Lakers took pre-conceived turns guarding Lin (i.e. not counting guys like Pau Gasol who guarded him off of pick-and-roll switches). The result? Well, unless you've been under a media blackout, you know they were none to successful in corraling Lin. As me, I mean.

I think we should wait for the Knicks to play a team with a lockdown-defender point guard (think Rajon Rondo) or great all-around team defense (think Chicago Bulls) to say that Lin is facing something in the way of stiff competition. Of course, I'm starting to hear whispers that the rumours of Minnesota Timberwolf Rick Rubio's poor defense have been exaggerated, so it's possible that Lin's first exam may come as early as tonight's game.

The other point I wanted to address is the trepidation (or in some cases, downright belief) that Lin and/or the Knick offense will suffer with the return of Amare Stoudemire and, even moreso, Carmelo Anthony. In the rush to point out that Lin's first three starts have come without two-thirds of the Knick big-3 (haven't we all gotten tired of the big-3 designation in the NBA? If we haven't yet, I use it here to speed us along to that day), some people seem to have totally forgotten that day one of the Lin experiment came in a game with a full Knick lineup. In last Saturday's contest with the Nets, Lin played a hefty 36 minutes, as did Tyson Chandler, Carmelo logged 35 minutes, and Amare saw 25. More importantly, Chandler and Amare shot well from the floor and scored 17 points apiece, and Melo, while shooting a poor percentage, managed to get up 15 shot attempts. In the midst of all that offense, Lin was still able to carve out 19 shot attempts and 25 points for himself. One game is certainly not a sample size, but if those four guys are capable of playing together offensively on command, without any preparation, surely they can do it after a few practices and games together. The biggest fear here seems to be Carmelo's ball-stopping reputation; however, he *did* play with one Chauncey Billups in Denver, and Raymond Felton in NY. It's not as if he's *never* had a traditional point guard in his life. Time for Melo (whenever he returns) to simply make better use of those 15 shots.

In any case, welcome to NY, Jeremy. Get up off your brother's couch and contact a real estate agent. It seems you've finally found a home.

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