‘Hart On Hoops’
By Sean Hartnett
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Like any captivating story, there was conflict, climax and a heroic outcome as Lin and the Knicks came away with a 107-93 victory over the Washington Wizards.
It was a first quarter to forget for Lin and the Knicks. He fell into foul trouble and was held scoreless by the Wizards. Heading into the second quarter, the Knicks trailed Washington, 23-17.
Once Lin reentered the game early in the second quarter, he immediately energized the Knicks. He spread eight first-half assists evenly among teammates as Landry Fields, Iman Shumpert, Steve Novak and Tyson Chandler all benefited from his drives to the net and flashy dishes.
Meanwhile, a very pro-Knicks away crowd displayed their affection for Lin wearing homemade t-shirts and holding up colorful banners. It wasn’t only Knicks fans in attendance who appreciated Lin’s entertainment but the entire Verizon Center crowd, who gave Lin a standing ovation at game’s end.
When it was all said and done, Lin recorded the first double-double of his NBA career. He dropped 23 points on the Wizards and supplied his teammates with a career-high 10 assists. His efforts allowed four of his teammates to reach double figures in scoring and out-distributed John Wall.
Knicks’ head coach Mike D’Antoni wasn’t afraid to heap praise upon Lin and revealed his belief that Lin will continue to improve.
D’Antoni spoke to reporters post-game, “He just does everything easy and the rest of the guys around him are playing the way we want to play.”
He continued, “I think it’s for real. The things that are real are his vision, which won’t change; his speed, which won’t change; his knowledge of the game, which won’t change. I think it can only get better.”
D’Antoni briefly mentioned Steve Nash during the post-game press conference and was asked by a reporter if Lin reminded him of any particular NBA player past or present. He responded, “That’s pretty easy, but I’m not going to go there.”
Even the two-time league MVP whom D’Antoni subtlety compared Lin to post-game was excited by the buzz that Lin is generating around the NBA. Nash shared his thoughts on Twitter Wednesday night:
@SteveNash: “If you love sports you have to love what Jeremy Lin is doing. Getting an opportunity and exploding!!”
If Lin can get this much out of the Knicks minus Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, it’s a mouth-watering prospect for their fans to see how he’ll perform once he’s boosted by the return of Stoudemire and Anthony.
Stoudemire is currently away from the team in Florida grieving over the loss of his brother Hazell. He’s kept an eye on his teammates and tweeted this following Wednesday’s victory:
@Amareisreal: “Another great game tonight Knicks!! It seems like everyone is buying into the system an playing team basketball. I can’t wait to join. GN”
Stoudemire appears eager to join up with his teammates and Lin’s style could jump-start Amar’e when he returns. Similar to Nash, Lin can provide alley-oops and crisp fast-break passes that can get the best out of Stoudemire’s game. Lin has an almost telepathic understanding with Tyson Chandler and Stoudemire could benefit similarly.
It’s too easy to compare Lin to Nash but it’s almost inevitable, especially as the Los Angeles Lakers are next up on the Knicks’ schedule.
While in Phoenix, D’Antoni depended on Nash to guide the Suns past the Lakers in the 2006 playoffs, trailing in their opening round series 3-1. With their backs against the wall, Nash rallied the Suns to win the remaining three games and move on to the next round.
While I’m not predicting Lin to become ‘The Next Nash,’ they do share a number of traits. Both are able to weave through defenders and use deception off the dribble to create openings but I ‘d be surprised if Lin ever becomes the reliable jump-shooter and world-class open floor facilitator that puts Nash in a class of his own.
Lin’s toughest challenge will come on Friday night when the Knicks return to Madison Square Garden to face the Lakers. If he and his teammates can somehow earn an unexpected victory over the Lakers, ‘The Jeremy Lin Show’ might just be getting started.
D’Antoni hinted that might be the case on Wednesday. “He’s just starting his journey. He’s got a long way to go. If he stays grounded and keeps going, there’s no reason why he can’t get better,” he stated.
Knicks fans… Can Jeremy Lin lead the Knicks past the Lakers on Friday? Is his best yet to come and how does he compare to Steve Nash? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to: @HartnettWFAN.