By now, everyone in America – basketball fan or otherwise – has heard of the sensational story of Jeremy Lin. The news is spreading around the world so fast that this article (which I have been planning for a couple days) has been brought forward at the request of my younger brother, who lives in Southend and has limited interest in basketball.
Call it what you will (and people have). Lin-sanity. Lin-telligence. Lin-pressive. The Lin Dynasty. Shao-Lin. There are endless ways, it seems, of building Lin’s surname into a nickname, but the emerging New York Knicks point guard has everyone talking about far more than his name right now.
A Knicks team on a terrible run turned in desperation to Lin on February 4, having lost 11 of 13 games and with superstars Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire unable to carry the team. At that time, Lin was a seldom-used reserve buried deep behind the likes of Iman Shumpert, Landry Fields, Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby in the rotation. With Douglas out of form and Shumpert nagged by injury, coach Mike D’Antoni had little choice but to throw Lin in – with immediate impact.
Starting with his first big chance on the 4th, against Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets, Lin has exploded. In the last seven games, he is averaging 24 points, 9 assists and 4 rebounds, shooting 51% from the field, and played at least 36 minutes in the first six before last night’s laugher against Sacramento. And the Knicks as a team? Seven-game winning streak.
In that first game against the Nets, Lin showed more passion and confidence with every whirling, spinning drive to the basket. He has fed off this energy ever since, and in the last 12 days has outplayed the likes of Devin Harris, John Wall, Ricky Rubio and Tyreke Evans at his position – and overshadowed Kobe Bryant with a 38-point explosion at Madison Square Garden last Friday.
What is most impressive about Lin’s game to me, other than his insane dribble-drives, his off-the-charts confidence and his admirable maturity, is that he has proven himself capable of immediately improving those around him. Let’s look at some scoring averages of Lin’s teammates, in the absence of Anthony and Stoudemire:
|Player||Scoring (pre-Lin)||Scoring (with Lin)|
|Tyson Chandler||11.3 ppg||13.6 ppg|
|Steve Novak||3.4 ppg||13.2 ppg|
|Jared Jeffries||3.3 ppg||7.8 ppg|
Novak, above all others, is feeding off of Lin’s energy and living on his smart passes. The lanky three-point shooter may be receiving more minutes than he would were Stoudemire with the team, but his shooting percentage has climbed because Lin’s penetration is drawing double teams from all over the court, and leaving the likes of Novak wide open.
The first Taiwanese-American ever to play in the NBA, Lin was undrafted out of Harvard 18 months ago, where he achieved an economics degree. An impressive 2010 summer league with the Dallas Mavericks led to a non-guaranteed contract with the Golden State Warriors for most of the 2010-11 season, but behind star guards Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, Lin made minimal impact. He bounced between the NBA and the D-League, and was cut – twice, by the Warriors and Houston Rockets – before this season started.
Now, he’s a fast-emerging superstar. Until last week, you couldn’t buy a Jeremy Lin jersey in stores around New York; now they’re flying off the rack faster than the stores can hang them up. There’s a Linsanity clothing range available at the NBA.com store, where his #17 jersey is the third-fastest selling across the entire league. The MSG crowd have started their inevitable “MVP” chants during some of Lin’s post-game interviews. Asian TV networks are falling over themselves to add Knicks games to their schedule, and the team’s American TV network (also known as MSG) says ratings are up 36% since those difficult pre-Lin times.
Stoudemire rejoined the Knicks on Tuesday following a loss in the family, and Anthony is expected to return from his groin strain in the next week. The biggest question in the NBA right now is how these two perennial All-Stars will adapt to the explosion of a brand new hero on their team.
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