The Knicks are a car accident to watch. It’s such a frightening mess and I know it’s bad to look at yet I still drag myself to a television set to watch this pathetic mess almost every night.
Last year they couldn’t play defense, this year they forgot how to score.
Bill Walker is a lackadaisical mess. Toney Douglas gets too trigger happy. Amare Stoudamire is the black David Lee (I told everyone this when he was signed but no one listened to me). Carmelo Anthony has no scoring help and all Mike D’Antoni could do was sit around and watch.
I wanted D’Antoni fired last year for his constant lack of detail, I wanted him fired this offseason for a defensive coach like Mike Brown, I want him fired this year because I’m sick of seeing him and his mustache.
Yet none of this matters right now in New York because Knick fans are on cloud nine thanks to a 6-3, 200 pound, undrafted point guard from Harvard that has become an overnight sensation.
His name is Jeremy Lin, and he is a gift from the heavens above.
Ok maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but jeez not even last year’s acquisition of Melo brought this much buzz an joy to the basketball Mecca that is the NYC.
Lin’s emergence came at a time when the Knicks desperately needed some good news. At 8-15 and flirting with a disastrous season that would’ve surely ended the D’Antoni era for the Knicks, Lin has caught fire and has led the Knicks through their best stretch of the season.
He’s been the missing piece that the fast pace D’Antoni offense has needed to get going. A pick and roll point guard with excellent vision and passing skills that is able to create shots for his teammates as well as fend for himself offensively.
Funny thing was that he was almost released to make room for the return of Baron Davis, I guess that won’t be happening now.
Ever since he stepped onto the court against the New Jersey Nets Lin has created a buzz across the league and has turned skeptics into believers.
He schooled Deron Williams and ran circles around him two Saturdays ago, he treated Devin Harris like a rag doll, he embarrassed John Wall with a sick crossover and dunk that was replayed over and over on Sportscenter, his performance against the Lakers last Friday will be talked about for years, and he showed toughness and moxie in gutting out a win in Minnesota.
He’s done it all from knocking down clutch free throws, reigniting Tyson Chandler’s game and leaving Derek Fisher flat-footed as he spun by for a highlight worthy lay in.
Yeah, I’m in love with this guy. But it took me a while to get into him.
Like most people I had to actually see him to believe him. Watching highlights of Lin didn’t tell the whole story. Yeah it was nice to see him drive at will against Utah and destroy the Nets already grim confidence but I wanted more.
I wanted to know three things about Lin while everyone was already crowning him the next big thing:
1. Can he handle the mounting pressure that comes with being an athlete in New York?
2. How does he deal with failure in a game and can he still stay on point when he’s not on his A game?
3. How will he play with the return of Stat and Melo (yeah, forgot about then right?)
My first question got answered on Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The last few times the Lakers have hit The Big Apple it’s been Kobe Bryant’s town without question. He has carved his own name into Madison Square Garden lore with huge performances like scoring 61 points in a game there just years ago.
It was the perfect test for my Lin theory, play arguably the best player in the game and keep the Knicks on pace with the Lakers.
That was the first full time that I actually got to watch Lin, safe to say I was shocked by what I saw.
He didn’t just keep the Knicks in the game, he controlled it. He dominated the pace and flow of the game by continuously attacking the rim, floating lobs to Chandler, coming up steals on the defensive end and destroying Fisher and Steve Blake when the ball was in his hands.
He looked like a younger Steve Nash, honest to god. Just his style of play and the way he maneuvered around the Lakers reminded me of the two-time NBA MVP.
Every time the Knicks needed a big play or a big shot the ball found its way to Lin. He never backed down and always came through. 38 points & 7 assists later I was starting to get sold on the NBA’s Tim Tebow.
(yep I made a Tebow reference but all of the similarities and hype and mass coverage are there. The big difference? Lin can ball out, Tebow’s a bum… Just saying.)
The next test came the next night against the Timberwolves in a hyped up battle versus Ricky Rubio.
The main reason I wanted to see him fail is because I wanted to see if he was more like Eli Manning or Tony Romo.
When things don’t go Manning’s way his demeanor doesn’t change and he pressed on. For Romo he panics and loses his cool. I wanted to see if when things get too tight of Lin folds or rises to the occasion.
(yeah I fit an Eli reference in there, so what? By the way did you know that the New York Giants are Super Bowl Champions? God that makes me happy)
The T-Wolves game was a game of two halves. Lin was his usual self in the first half 7-12, 4 dimes and running the offense efficiently. In the second half Lin was totally taken out of rhythm. He only hit 1-12 shots and the Wolves forced him into bad shots and 4 turnovers.
However, I got the impression from Lin that even in tough stretches he still doesn’t get rattled.
Even with all of the turnovers and with his shots not finding the net he still continued to set up his other teammates including Steve Novak’s game tying three with less than a minute left. He also scored the winning point from the free throw line after being fouled getting to the basket.
Even without a dominant performance Lin still found a way to pull out a win for the Knicks. That was enough to make me even more of a believer.
Now the third and most interesting task is at hand… Can Lin, Melo and Stat all work together to be effective?
Carmelo Anthony has received a lot of bad press in the last week with all of the Linsanity spreading through NY.
It’s as if we forget that we wanted Melo here in the first place, it’s not his fault that the Knicks traded the farm to get him (thanks James Dolan). Melo has always needed a point guard to stabilize this offense to make more effective. Sorry Toney Douglas wasnt the answer.
With Lin’s emergence Melo and Amar’e for that matter now have a lot less pressure on their shoulders to score.
The main question is can Melo let Lin run the offense without asking for the ball too much?
As dynamic of a scorer as he is, Melo holds onto the ball for too long in too many stretches of the game. With Lin at the point now Melo will have to find his rhythm in the game and let it come to him.
Besides elevating Chandler, Landry Fields has found his game and confidence and Novak has become a reliable shooter off of the bench. The Knicks have gone from a two horse team to an actual team with a good rotation.
If Melo can stay dominant while letting this mix still cook then the Knicks will be making noise come playoff time.
If not then he’ll be the one taking most of the criticism if the Knicks go back to struggling.
The next stage of Linsanity is upon us. He won’t be throwing up 25 shots a game any more or dropping 38 on defenses, but I believe that after watching Jeremy Lin he is the answer to a lot of the Knicks woes.
Lin has dazzled America, balled out on every opponent that he’s faced and is getting better by the day.
In a city consumed by sports with the Giants winning Super Bowls, the Rangers leading the NHL and the Yankees always on the back pages, the Knicks have wiggled their way back into the minds of New Yorkers.
Linsanity is here and hopefully it’s not a flash in the pan.
Kevin Howard is The Brooklyn Buckeye because he is from Brooklyn, NY and is a graduate of The Ohio State University. Follow him on twitter @brooklyngohard and on his blog site at brooklynbuckeye.wordpress.com