By John Schmeelk
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It’s amazing what a few wins and a little hope can do for a fan base.
Knicks fans have gone from calling for Mike D’Antoni’s head and blowing up the core to obsessing about their point guard of the future — and how he is going to turn around the franchise. Steve Nash comparisons are even being thrown around. Why let the facts that Lin was undrafted and recently cut by more than one team get in the way?
New York cynicism aside, Lin has been impressive and then some. His scoring has been a great bonus, especially with Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire out, but his ability to run a team is what has impressed me the most. If course, he looks a lot better considering the other options fans have had to endure this year. The Knicks have run out the worst set of point guards in the entire league. Iman Shumpert is a shooting guard, not a playmaker at the point. Mike Bibby is washed up and Toney Douglas is having an awful year. Compared to that cast, Lin might as well be Pistol Pete Maravich.
He runs the pick and roll well, with the ability to keep his dribble while getting into the lane and tracking the floor for open men. His vision is spectacular and his size allows him to finish around the basket. What has shocked me the most is his first step that allows him to get around defenders, even in one on one situation. He might not be the best shooter, but put all those other attributes together than you get a point guard that is perfect to jump start D’Antoni’s offense.
All the Knicks needed this year was a semi-competent point guard, one that could get the ball where it had to go. With scorers like Stoudemire and Anthony, that’s all that was required out of that position. Of course, with those two stars out, Lin has done much more and might not only be the coach’s savior, but also a season saver. His ability to move the ball and get everyone involved has allowed previously struggling teammates to get easier looks and gain confidence.
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Just look at the impact on Steve Novak, who is finally getting some playing time and open looks in rhythm. That’s what happens when you have a real point guard. Landry Fields is seeing his off the ball movement pay off with back door passes from Lin. Tyson Chandler is getting rewarded for cutting hard to the basket after setting screens. Shumpert gets to play his more natural shooting guard position and looks far more comfortable without having to initiate the offense.
And it might sound ridiculous, but the credit for all that goes to Lin. With the point guard misfits running the show, none of those guys could get out of their funks. Nothing came easy. They had to work for all their points.
This should also quiet all those D’Antoni critics out there, who decided after 20 games that he had lost his touch as an offensive coach. The Knicks have won three straight games with Lin, Fields, Shumpert, Douglas, Novak, Chandler, Jared Jeffries, Bill Walker and Jerome Jordan as their primary rotation players.
I don’t care who the opponent is. Beating the Brooklyn Flames would be a feat with that group. D’Antoni’s system has allowed Lin and the rest of the Knicks to have the success they have. He’s still a great offensive coach.
Of course, I’ll close by mixing in some more caution. It’s only been three games and Lin can easily come crashing down. But he seems to have talents that won’t go away. No matter how he is defended, his intelligence, court vision and unselfish play aren’t things that can be taken away.
The Knicks might have just found their point guard. They’ve certainly found some hope… false or not.
You can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/Schmeelk.
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