Feb 182012

The timing couldn’t have been better for a savior. With football finished, baseball and NASCAR yet to begin and basketball and hockey in the throes of their marathon-like seasons; American professional sports was primed, even desperate for a spark. Jeremy Lin was that shot in the arm, a panacea to cure the boredom of the winter doldrums. The media was craving it; the mercurial ascendance of an unheralded unknown, rising from the ashes like a Phoenix to claim the title of Mr. Unexpected. Oh, and did we mention that he’s a modern renaissance man too?!?! The vultures, circling high above the skies of Madison Square Garden begging for a relevant, newsworthy tale, were finally able to sink their jagged fangs into this juicy saga. Well, Jeremy Lin couldn’t have come at a better time. The perfect storm of race, class, immigration, education, diversity and a little bit of hoops too! Time was winding down on the shot clock and he hoisted up a three at the buzzer- question is: will it be sustained?

For all the buzz, hype and hubbub, several observations remain under served. For instance, how about the fact that this is just a stretch of regular season games in perhaps the most watered-down season the NBA has ever seen. Nonexistent training camps and preseasons, an entire league uncommitted to playing with soul on the defensive end of the court and Mr. Lin is able to skate into the lane time and again to the throw up shots destined for the cup. Only one shot blocker (Serge Ibaka) in the league is averaging a whisker over 3 blocks per game (note: the 1980’s and 1990’s saw shot blockers like Hakeem Olajuwon, Mark Eaton, Manute Bol, Dikembe Mutombo, Jack Sikma, Shaq, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Shawn Bradley and a host of others routinely averaging 3-5 blocks per game year after year). This lack of looming presence patrolling the middle makes it oh so comfortable for young Lin to penetrate without much recourse. The pump is primed for an up and coming guard to come out of oblivion and into the spotlight for instant offensive success!

Playing for an offensive obsessed coach in Mike D’Antoni must have been a God send for Jeremy. But, for all that jazz, we must dive a little bit deeper and expose Lin’s dirty little secret: The Turnovers. Yes, it’s not all Love and Basketball. The assists are overvalued and too easy to come by- remember the defense?? With that lack of “D” in mind, we are called upon to examine Lin’s turnover totals in his run o’ luck: 1, 8, 2, 6, 6, 8, 6, 9 = 46 in 8 games. Hmmm, something here does add up and conveniently gets pushed to the side during a regular season team-high winning streak. This is destined to be a franchise killer should it continue come playoff time, when NBA teams DO finally decide that possessions, ball control and defensive effort matter for 48 minutes. One other stat to note for all the Lin lover’s: the combined record of the teams he’s faced in his run are a dreadful 89-155 (.364 winning percentage). Let’s not book the victory parade just yet.

Now, those out there donning rose colored glasses will probably say that this writer is just another armchair, Monday morning quarterback that is simply a “hater” of someone else’s success. Well…..if that’s the assumption, then the answer is incorrect. I happen to love the ascent of Jeremy Lin’s recent success. Yes, I remember him taking it to John Wall in the summer league two years ago. I’m estatic not to have to hear about Jimmer or the deity that is Tim Tebow. I am fully behind the unofficial message of Lin’s unintended ambassadorship as an Asian-American, who reminds the rest of us that it’s okay to dream big. Most of all, I’m proud of him for actually living up to the media hype and not crumbling after being so quickly placed at the apex of the mountain top. But with all great praise, must come a reality check.

Throughout the course of this run, Jeremy’s spoken and clearly I’ll remember “picking” on the boy, long after this article is a ghost in the shadows. We love a great tale of success in the face of the longest odds. Hollywood is sure to make a movie and the small screen is probably entertaining scripts as we speak. I hope he sustains this run of consistency (taking the good with the bad) and can lead the Knicks into the playoffs and out of the first round. The NBA is a much better product when the Knicks are relevant. I just want to caution all of those that are so quick to let a two week stretch of point production turn their minds inside out. The regular season is just that: regular. This is no time to jump to premature conclusions and crown him The King of New York.  At this point, let’s just hope they’ll allow him the opportunity for continued improvement, so one day he can really show the true extent of his talents.

  6 Responses to “Maintaining a Sense of Lin-Sanity”

  1. Good stuff RT! Nice glimpse into one of the more exciting stories of the year in the NBA and some of the dynamics at work that make it so entertaining to follow.

  2. It’s alot of fun to weigh in on the excitement of what this kid is currently doing. Yes, his turnover’s are alarming-but the team is winning and their doing it without Carmelo Anthony. I do believe that Lin will get more control of the ball as the year progresses and that will come organically through more playing time. Remember, he didn’t have a training camp either in which to nail down their offense and learn the tendencies of his teamates. It will be really interesting to watch down the road if he continues to improve and can become an all star caliber player. I wish him all the success!

  3. Well written RT. I can only echo what you’ve said here. Admittedly, i’m no basketball fan at this point in my life. Unless it’s the Celtics in the playoffs, a marquee game or if i’m flipping through and happen upon a close game in the 4th, i can do without. And it’s not always been this way as I was a big basketball fan in the late 80s and early 90s. I just think the game has changed. (for another time).

    So, for something from the basketball world to peak my interest, that’s sayin something. I truly hope this continues, because asketball desparately needs this. I dont think the NBA could have scripted a better story. The best thing is that this is an international story.

    As for if it will sustain? Again, i’m not basketball guru, but i’ve seen, read and heard enough to have an educated opinion. I beleive he absolutely has the talent to not only sustain this level, but improve. He is only 23, and his biggest knock is his turnovers. That’s not a talent issue, that’s a decision making and team chemistry issue. BOTH can only improve.

    I cant say that i’m excited about basketball again, for it’s going to take a LOT more than just one guy. But i’m encouraged, and hopeful that more players LIKE Lin are given a chance in the NBA. I dont think a return back to the hay days are a reality, but i’d love to see basketball back on my sports map.

  4. The more I learn about the guy, the more I am convinced that he will last in the league. He’s a very confident fella, which is essential in order to play and flourish in the Big Apple. I also feel confident that he is completely committed to getting better as a player and floor leader. He’s got all the ingredients to put it all together…..Just a wonderful story of “Against All Odds”.

  5. Great article. I like the devil’s advocate approah you’ve taken here. It’s easy to get on board with everyone else in his like ability, but from a statitcs point of view you need to take a look at the bigger picture. Turnovers are crucial in basketball and can make or break a game. But with time and practice, we can only hope that improvements follow. He could become a triple threat in due time! Next year will be interesting when all of the players have a pre season and have time to jive with each of their team mates and to work out the kinks. I hope that his success continues and we see this rising star improving year after year! I’m team Linsanity!

  6. I enjoyed your perspectives and outlook on Lin…a cautionary tale, so to speak, but one with honest critique as his potential star-power begins its ascent.
    Beyond the hype and thrill of adventure on the court, I am hopeful Lin will enjoy the athletic journey ahead which will certainly prove challenging along the way to his goals.
    Keep writing provocative articles, RT, helping to keep us more sane as we watch a dynamic player-in-progress being propelled into the media’s jet-wash!

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