Confidence can be a scary thing. Jeremy Lin’s mind-boggling hot streak is a prime example of self-confidence gone right. Just last year, “The” Jeremy Lin who has been transformed into a God at the Mecca of basketball, couldn’t find a way to get on the court, and when he did, he barely resembled a NBA player let alone a NBA point guard.
Landing on the Knicks roster was the best-case scenario for the Harvard youngster. Although fourth on the depth chart, he was behind Shumpert, a shooting guard playing out of position, Toney Douglas, an undersized combo guard struggling on both ends of the floor, and an aging Mike Bibby who couldn’t buy a basket. So when Jeremy Lin finally began to play, he put up solid performances in limited minutes (except the game against Sacramento, in which he played miserably), giving Mike D’Antoni every reason to play him.
Most people consider his 25-point performance against the New Jersey Nets as his breakout game; however, his real breakout game was against the Houston Rockets, a full week before the Nets game. Lin looked incredibly sharp against Kyle Lowry, an all-star caliber point guard and fantastic defender, and Goran Dragic, who is a solid backup point guard. He was rewarded with playing time in the first half against the Celtics, and once again looked completely poised against a tenacious defender, Avery Bradley; however, Mike D’Antoni chose not to play Lin in the second half. In hindsight, D’Antoni’s decision looks like the right one. The Knicks were playing in front of a hostile crowd against a rival team, the type of game that could either make or break a young player’s confidence; it would be unwise to bet against the Celtics defense. Credit goes to Mike D’Antoni, who gave Lin his first chance at extended playing time against a miserable New Jersey Nets team at home. The Knicks coach has taken a lot of heat for the team’s struggles, but his handling of the Jeremy Lin situation deserves acknowledgement.
With Lin’s success, many Knick fans are worried about the impact the return of Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. Many are skeptical, claiming that the return of the Knicks’ two stars will hurt the team; however these beliefs are absurd. Both Carmelo Anthony and STAT will thrive with a point guard like Lin. Amar’e will be able to play pick and roll basketball, the type of basketball that has made him one of the elite scoring big men in the game. Carmelo, who has been handed the responsibility of playing a point forward, can revert to his previous role as a scoring forward, the role that allowed him to become one of the NBA’s best offensive players. Both of these players will be able to be successful with Jeremy Lin at the helm. So far, the real woe in the Knicks offense has been floor spacing, and the media continues to hurl blame at Carmelo and STAT, although Tyson Chandler also has a huge role in the team’s lack of spacing. With Lin now in the equation, the real question is how Tyson Chandler’s presence will affect Amar’e Stoudemire’s spacing, in an offense that will have an increased focus on pick and roll situations. The last thing the Knicks need is a situation similar to that of Amar’e-Shaq in Phoenix, where even the great Steve Nash had problems.
A lot of this Lin hype that the media has stirred up has to do with his unlikely route as an Asian American Harvard graduate, and his easily “punnable” last name. Understandably, the media has jumped on the “rags to riches” story (in terms of NBA career prospects), but the media has turned it into hysteria. As great of a stretch he is having, in no way do his performances warrant comparisons to Steve Nash, Isaiah Thomas and John Stockton, who are three of the best playmakers of all time. Although he will continue be a solid player, and a good passer, he turns over the ball too much, is a mediocre defender and has average speed with good quickness. Also, his left hand is weak, and when he decides to go left, he has a tendency to pass, force up a bad shot or go up and under with the right hand. There is no question that Lin is a great complementary piece for the Knicks, and that his penetration and pick and roll play should open up things for the Knicks offensively. Jeremy will continue to improve, and can definitely become a high caliber point guard in the NBA. However, make no mistake, the Knicks will and should continue to be Melo and STAT’s team.
In a span of one week, Jeremy Lin went from sleeping on his brother’s couch to renting a $3,800 a month apartment in White Plains. Jeremy had his contract of $800,000 guaranteed, his jersey became the best seller in the entire league, and endorsement deals are coming shortly. Knicks management must tread carefully and make sure they keep Lin in their long-term plans. Once he becomes a restricted free agent, teams under the cap will be able to offer Lin multiyear deals (starting at the mid level exception of $5 million). Although the Knicks have about $54 million committed to their big three, they would be able to match any offers made to Lin. The Knicks should retain the young point guard, and will likely do so. After years of management failures, Donnie Walsh righted the ship, and now it is up to Glen Grunwald to keep it on the right track.
The last time the NBA was locked out, during the 1998-1999 season, the Knicks were in a similar situation to today. They underperformed throughout the season and their coach was on the hot seat for most of the season, but the team was able to figure out its identity and willed itself to the NBA finals as an eight seed. The 2011-2012 Knicks have followed an eerily similar path, and are showing promise of becoming a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs