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.