I have been following sports, especially basketball, for over 40 years and in all of that time, I have never seen or experienced anything like we are going through with one Jeremy Lin.
Last week he could have walked down 42nd street with no one recognizing him. Now he is one of the most popular individuals walking the face of the Earth. How did this phenomenon come to be? Well the New York Knicks point guard has found himself in the middle of the perfect storm. Lin’s impact is being felt on and off the court.
The Harvard graduate, one of few NBA players of Asian decent, is Broadway’s newest sensation. Not only has he given the Knicks and their fans the shot of energy they desperately needed and saved his coach’s job, but he might end up being the missing piece to the Knicks playoff puzzle. And let’s not ignore the effect he has had on the box office and merchandising.
Now, I’m not ready to put this kid in the Hall of Fame. Let’s slow the roll. He has only played in five games of significance. That is a small sample for anyone to come up with any definitive prediction on his long-term future. However, based on what we have seen thus far, the future appears to be bright.
Coming into this week, the most he has ever scored in the NBA was 13 points. In those five games last week, he averaged over 25 points and dished out seven assists. After his first four games, he walked off
the court with a career-high in points in each game and scored the go-ahead point in the fifth.
His story is the reason why we love sports. Here is a guy who is sleeping on his brother’s sofa and was on the verge of being cut eight days ago. He made it against long odds, coming out of the Ivy League
and being overlooked perhaps because of his Asian decent. But regardless where this kid has come from and what color or his ethnicity, this kid can ball.
Everybody is looking at the last five games, but his ascension started in the Boston game. He scored 12 points in the first half of that contest, but then did not play that much in the second half. Then he
went on to make a name for himself against the New Jersey Nets, Washington Wizards, and Utah Jazz. You might say that was against inferior competition, but when he lit up the Los Angeles Lakers for 38 points and went toe-to-toe with Kobe Bryant, a star was born. He went on to score 24 points on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves, despite having a poor shooting night. He was clearly tired in Minnesota but he persevered and came through when his team needed him.
I just love his game. At 6’3” 200 lbs he can handle the physical pounding while penetrating. He is a true point guard who can score. Lin has shown that he can split the double team. He keeps his dribble
and head up, always looking for the open man. He raises his teammate’s skill level, giving them the ball when and where they want it. His teammates have reciprocated by moving without the ball and are playing
lights-out defense. The only problem is that two of the franchise’s main cogs have not been part of this 5-0 run.
Amar’e Stoudemire, due to the death of his brother, and Carmelo Anthony, with a groin injury, have not been a part of this renaissance. I have no doubt that both of the superstars can play along side Lin and still excel. For Stoudemire, this is exactly what the doctor ordered. He and Lin will make an excellent pick and roll tandem. If Lin can work that play with Tyson Chandler, then expect Amar’e to regain his old form.
Melo should also benefit from playing with Lin believe it or not. The knock on Melo is that the ball stops moving when it reaches his hands. But keep in mind that he was asked to facilitate the offense, something that he was never comfortable with. Now that he has a point guard that has a knack for putting his teammates in a position to get the best out of their abilities, this should make it easier for the
former Syracuse superstar to score. Lin also takes the pressure off Melo. As a matter of fact, Melo was the one who reportedly encouraged Mike D’Antoni to play Lin.
If you think that Lin has had an impact on the court, that is nothing compared to the impact he has had off the court. Last week, Lin was the only one wearing a Knicks number 17 jersey. Now his jersey is the
hottest selling uniform at the NBA store. Modell’s claims that they can not keep his jersey or tee shirts in stock.
MSG stock is trading 10-12% higher than it was a week ago. Time Warner Cable customers are putting the heat on MSG and the cable provider to settle their contract so that the two million customers can watch the Knicks at home. I know the bars, not only here in New York but all over the world, especially in China, are happy. Most of the bars in the City are packed when the Knicks are playing now. And Bars in China are
hosting viewing parties at 3am when the Lin is working his magic.
Now I do not expect Lin to average 25 points per game from here on out. If he can score 12-15 points per night and hand out 7-10 assists, I will be ecstatic. This should not be that difficult of a goal reach.
Melo and Amar’e will take the scoring load off of Lin’s shoulders and will be easy targets as far as assists go. Steve Novak, Billy Walker and Iman Shumpert all have gained valuable experience and confidence
in Stoudemire and Anthony’s absence and that should also bold well.
I know that Coach D’Antoni is happy that he listened to Melo. Because of Lin, D’Antoni got a stay of execution and most likely would have lost his job by now if was not for the newest Broadway sensation. I do
not know how long this will last but let’s enjoy the ride while it does.