By John Schmeelk
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Jeremy Lin has been the center of the Knicks basketball universe the last week and rightfully so. None of us might ever see such a meteoric rise from such an unlikely figure ever again. The focus has been on his humble personality, Ivy league roots, trouble sticking with a NBA team, lack of a home in New York and even his race and religion. In terms of his game people are marveling at his deceiving quickness, court vision and basketball savvy. It’s great, but we wouldn’t have seen any of this if it wasn’t for Mike D’Antoni.
Jeremy Lin wouldn’t be doing any of this if he wasn’t playing in D’Antoni’s system. There’s a reason the Rockets and Warriors decided to let him go, even if those team’s decisions were as tough as they now claim. With D’Antoni’s love of the pick and roll, and his system’s penchant to spread the floor and promote ball movement, it was a perfect fit for Lin. His skills of getting to the basket, seeing the floor, keeping his dribble alive and constantly attacking is exactly what Mike D’Antoni’s system requires out of a point guard. Jeremy Lin in a recent interview called D’Antoni an offensive genius, which may be an overstatement, but there’s no doubt his offense has made Lin look like a genius. It’s a perfect marriage.
In the same way, D’Antoni desperately needed someone like Jeremy Lin to show up. This season showed a weakness in D’Antoni’s approach: it needs a good point guard to work. In fairness, the same can be said of most offenses, but it is particularly true in Mike D’Antoni’s. He doesn’t need a Derrick Rose or a Chris Paul, just a guard that can see the floor and make the proper reads off the high pick and roll. There was a reason he turned Chris Duhon into a starting caliber NBA point guard, and Raymond Felton into a borderline All-Star. Look at what both those players have done since leaving the Knicks. Their numbers are down drastically. D’Antoni’s system is a point guard’s dream.
So, while Jeremy Lin has certainly made Mike D’Antoni’s system work, his system has no doubt made Jeremy Lin look a whole better than he would in any other system. This should be a reminder for all Knicks fans out there that somehow forgot what their head coach’s offense can do with a decent playmaker. D’Antoni does know what he is doing, and it goes far beyond the seven seconds or less fast break stuff people remember from Phoenix. His offense spreads the floor and creates more space and ball movement, leading to open looks moreso than any other system. All he needs are skilled and willing passers that are able to take advantage of those opportunities. With Jeremy Lin, he has that and it has infected the rest of the roster.
Of course the million dollar question is whether or not that will continue once Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire come back. Then, Mike D’Antoni will truly be tested because it will be on him to integrate those two stars into the unselfish play that has been happening at the Garden. I’ll take a look at how he can do that tomorrow. But in the meantime, I beg Knicks fans to remember that without Mike D’Antoni there wouldn’t be a Jeremy Lin.
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