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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

And…The Linsanity Continues!

Once is a coincidence. Twice is a pattern. Three times is a trend.

Five times? After five times, expectations begin to form. Jeremy Lin started his fifth career NBA game. For the fifth time in a row, Lin scored 20 or more points. For the fifth time in a row, Lin dished out at least seven assists. For the fifth time in a row, the New York Knicks won, and in doing so have a game and a half lead over the Milwaukee Bucks for eighth place (which would qualify them for the final playoff spot) in the Eastern Conference.


As if Lin’s rapid rise to media stardom (soon to be legitimate NBA stardom if this continues) were not enough, another element of lore was added to the Jeremy Lin story. The Knicks took their act north of the border to Toronto last night. The struggling Raptors led the Knicks by several possessions in the fourth quarter, only to have the Knicks tie the score in the final minute of the game. Prior to the final possession, Lin had a double-double with 24 points and 11 assists, fueling the Linsanity whether the Knicks won or lost. Then…

Lin BURIES the three point shot! Knicks win! The Linsanity continues! 1


“You got to have a j-o-b!”

Stepping away from this fascinating story, which continues to grow legs of it own and seems to be running away from every other sports related story, what does this mean for the Lin and the Knicks? For Lin, it means he has a JOB. J-O-B!

Lin has been on three NBA rosters since July of 2010. The Golden State Warriors cut him. The Houston Rockets cut him on Christmas Day, albeit more due to roster and salary cap logistics than performance issues. Multiple outlets in the media and people within the Knicks organization itself speculated that Lin was possibly a week away from being cut by the Knicks. A five game run like that of Lin’s, barring a complete regressing and collapse in performance, assures Lin of some employment for the rest of this season and into next season.

For the Knicks, should Lin simply demonstrate competence and, perhaps, above-average play from the point guard position, they are “back in the game”, so to speak. The Knicks spent the bulk of this season in the lower half of the Eastern Conference standings. The Knicks grabbed a spot on the contender’s radar last season when they acquired power forward Amare Stoudemire in free agency and small forward Carmelo Anthony and point guard Chauncey Billups in a mid-season trade with the Denver Nuggets. Billups departed New York for the Los Angeles Clippers during this past offseason and the Knicks acquired injured point guard Baron Davis and center Tyson Chandler before this season began.

Now, Jeremy, the word for today is "job". JAY-OH-BEE! 2

The Knicks were loaded in the front court, but with Billups’ departure and the wait for Davis’ recovery, they were bankrupt in the backcourt in a coaching system that revolves around guard play. The prevailing thought among many speculators – fans, media, or otherwise – was that if the Knicks could stay within striking distance of .500 until Davis could return to the lineup, the Knicks could make a push, get into the playoffs, and try to make a postseason run.

Lin’s rapid ascension had changed all of that. The Knicks are competitive now. If Lin plays as he has for the remainder of this season, Baron Davis goes from potential season savior to trade bait (and a seven figure contract to be potentially unloaded). The media has also speculated about the affect that the injured and frequently-shooting, high scoring Anthony’s return to the lineup will affect Lin. Without a doubt, Lin will pass more and score less. I think, however, that adding one of the NBA’s best players to the lineup will help the Knicks more than hurt. Don’t you?


Will Melo be Mellow? Is There Heat on the Heat?

The Knicks season was on the verge of becoming a footnote prior to the start of Linsanity. Head Coach Mike D’Antoni was in danger of losing his job. Now, with the addition of a highly productive point guard, the Knicks, on the floor, are right back in the mix in the Eastern Conference with the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, and the quietly surprising Philadelphia 76ers.

For all of the speculation about how Carmelo Anthony, a forward who shoots a lot and was forced into the point guard role while Davis recovered from injury, I think the bigger personnel clash will be in the backcourt, not from a star in the frontcourt (Anthony) who will have gone from having to pass the ball to having someone pass to him.

Will the Baron Put The Knicks in the Red?

What happens with Baron Davis (13 PPG, 7 APG in 2011)? Is he moved to shooting guard? Does he become a sixth man? Do you trade him? Do you take a wait-and-see approach, observing Lin’s performance once his hot streak cools down some? Let’s be clear: Lin is taking Davis’ job, a job for which Davis never had a chance to demonstrate his merit in New York.

Being from New Orleans and being a Hornets fan, I can tell you, first hand, that when Davis, the Hornets’ former franchise player, is not happy, the rest of the team will not be happy. Davis outwardly voiced his discontent with the situation in New Orleans, in spite of having recently received a max contract. He forced his way into a trade to the Golden State Warriors.

Three seasons after Davis’ final (full) season with the Hornets, the Warriors reached the playoffs for the first time in 13 years and reached the conference semifinals for the first time since 1991. The Hornets, who had reached the playoffs five straight years, would only win 18 games and have nothing but NBA lottery ping pong balls in their future. The Bees were able to draft Chris Paul with the third pick in the 2005 NBA Draft and rebuild the franchise because of the collapse, but would not return to the playoffs until 2008.

No two situations are the same. The moral of the story is that Baron Davis can be toxic when he is unhappy. Jeremy Lin is taking Davis’ job. Do you think he will be happy?

Kobe Bryant: Game killer (as in your game). Baron Davis: Coach killer.... 3


I am just a blogger, not an NBA insider. I cannot begin to speculate on how Lin will impact the answers to some of the complex questions I posed about the future of the Knicks, the Eastern Conference, and the league. I simply hope this story continues because it is interesting, good for basketball, and good for sports.

To be continued tonight at Madison Square Garden against his point guard counterpart Tyreke Evans (17 PPG, 5 APG, 5 RPG) and the Sacramento Kings….  4

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