Posted Feb 16 2012 8:27AM
NEW YORK -- There is no predicting where this is going, because there is no precedent.
All we know is that Jeremy Lin has revived the New York Knicks, has gone from scrub to star like no other player in NBA history, and has captured the attention of basketball fans near and far. How long will it last? Who the heck knows.
Wednesday's 100-85 victory over the Sacramento Kings was the Knicks' easiest of the seven straight they've run off with Lin running the show, a sign that everything is clicking and their January struggles are in the rearview mirror. They were moving the ball so well offensively, that coach Mike D'Antoni had no need to call a play in the second half.
On an alternate timeline, this was Jimmer Fredette Night, the rookie sensation's first NBA game in his home state. On this timeline, both real and surreal, it was the latest episode of The Jeremy Lin Show, starring the fearless kid from Harvard.
Lin did more distributing than scoring on Wednesday, dishing out a career-high 13 assists. In his seven games as the Knicks' floor general, he's averaging 24.4 points and 9.1 dimes, while shooting an efficient 51 percent from the field.
The Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets have each expressed regret about letting Lin get away. But it's not like he has blinding speed, freakish athleticism, or a flawless jump shot. His physical abilities are limited, and he's getting by almost entirely on attitude and aptitude.
One has to wonder if we'd be on that alternate timeline if Lin didn't get his first opportunity against the worst defense we've seen in recent memory. The shorthanded, slow-footed and disjointed New Jersey Nets, who are, statistically, the worst defensive team of the last 20 years, let Lin carve them up for 25 points and seven assists 12 days ago. The Nets unleashed the Linsanity and it's been a runaway train ever since.
Re-examining his first big game doesn't take anything away from Lin. Since that initial outburst, he's done the same to much better defensive teams. But it's clear that confidence is a big part of his success. And those 36 minutes against the Nets obviously gave both Lin and D'Antoni the knowledge that he can be the solution to the Knicks' problems.
Baron Davis will still be a welcome addition in New York if he's ever healthy enough to play, but no longer are the Knicks desperate for Davis to come and save them.
"It changes everything," D'Antoni said of Lin's emergence. "We knew that we gave up Chauncey [Billups] to get Tyson [Chandler], and we knew that was a problem that had to be resolved as we went along. And we didn't know exactly when that opportunity comes out or when it happens. This changes everything up."
We always knew that a competent point guard was the key to D'Antoni's offense. And it's never been more clear than it is now.
"I knew once we got a point guard and we got Baron back, that everything would fall into place," Chandler added. "And then Jeremy came along, and now it's like, 'Wow, that's even better, because we have Jeremy and when we get Baron back, we'll have two point guards. So there will be no let-up.'"
From a basketball standpoint, Flip Murray made a similar splash at the start of the 2003-04 season. After playing just 62 minutes his rookie year, Murray started the first 13 games for the Sonics, replacing an injured Ray Allen. Hardly anybody knew of Murray, a second-round pick out of Shaw University, until he averaged 21.8 points in those 13 games, helping the Sonics get off to a 5-1 start without their best player.
But as much of a revelation as he's been on the floor, this run by Lin is about much more than basketball. He went from under-recruited to undrafted, waived and waived again. Now, the underdog has brought the historic franchise in the largest market in the league back from the abyss of 8-15, breaking stereotypes and outshining two perennial All-Stars on his own team.
And along with a move up the standings come renewed energy at Madison Square Garden and never-ending marketing opportunities for both the team and its point guard. The Lin jerseys and T-shirts can't be produced fast enough, and every media outlet wants an interview with the NBA's newest and brightest star.
But Lin clearly isn't concerned about that stuff. While we marvel at his story and his global appeal, he remains humble and focused on the locker room.
"I think the thing that's been really interesting to me is just how well the team has really put everything aside," he said. "The camaraderie on this team is just ridiculous. The guys, it's such a joy to be around them every day."
Of course, Lin is the primary source of that joy, which has spread from New York to Taiwan. And with D'Antoni's offense clicking again, Knicks fans have every right to go back to those preseason dreams of contending in the Eastern Conference, especially if Carmelo Anthony can keep the ball moving when he returns from a groin injury.
Those 13 games at the start of his second season were the highlight of Flip Murray's career. He averaged double-figures three times, but was an offense-only journeyman, playing for eight teams in eight seasons.
Is that Jeremy Lin's future, or is he the real deal?
Nobody knows, because we've really never seen anything like this before.
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