By John Schmeelk
» More Columns
The rise of Jeremy Lin has officially jumped the shark. Lin has been great, and the Knicks have undoubtedly found their starting point guard the rest of the season, but fans need to take a step back for a moment. I’ve read stories implying and heard fans saying how they think the Knicks might be better without Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. Pause. Let’s not be stupid here.
As great as the five-game winning streak has been, anyone that thinks the Knicks can sustain any sort of consistent success with Jeremy Lin as their best player is out of their minds. He won’t keep this pace up over the course of the season, especially as teams get more tape on him and gameplan accordingly. Lin and this supporting cast might squeak out some nice effort wins and are fun to watch, but they are not a playoff team. The Knicks need Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, and should have both back this week. It will be Mike D’Antoni’s job, as well as the two stars, to make sure they seamlessly fit into the up-tempo selfless culture that’s developed without them.
Amar’e Stoudemire will be back tonight and I can only imagine how he must be salivating to play with Jeremy Lin. The style the Knicks have played in the past five games is reminiscent how they looked last season with Raymond Felton as their point guard, when Stoudemire was playing his best basketball. He should fit right in as a pick and roll partner with Jeremy Lin and get a bunch of easy baskets at the rim. Stoudemire’s sizable struggles this year can be traced to the Knicks lack of a point guard. He’s had to do everything himself and has struggled with the mid-range jumper and scoring in isolation situations.
He has also looked much less explosive this season, which could be traced back to the shorter offseason, but more likely the sprained ankle he suffered in the first game of the season against the Boston Celtics. There have been vague references all year to his legs “not being there.” The week off he took to mourn the death of his older brother might just help his body heal a little bit. Coming back and playing with Jeremy Lin, he might look more like himself than ever.
Stoudemire has never been a selfish player, demanding shots or touches. In fact, he has thrived when the ball moves and scoring comes in the flow of the offense. Jeremy Lin should only make him better, and Stoudemire should also make Lin better. There is no better player than Stoudemire finishing on the pick and roll, and Lin is the Knicks best guard passing out of it since Raymond Felton. This should be a match made in heaven.
But I wonder if the same can be said for Carmelo Anthony, who should be back by the end of the week. Despite public perception, Anthony has been far more unselfish this season and has proven himself a proficient passer. He does, however, need the ball in his hands and he has the tendency to stop the ball. If he is able to adjust and play off the ball to take advantage of Jeremy Lin’s court vision, his points could come easier as well. Lin could create open looks for him in catch and shoot situations, and if Carmelo moves without the ball he could get some free runs at the basket.
The best thing this does for Anthony, is relieve him of the responsibility of distribution. While his poor shooting numbers have a lot to do with his injuries, I think it might also have to do with the fact he has been uncomfortable with his role. Due to the Knicks lack of a point guard, he was tasked with being the team’s point forward and publically started questioning whether he was shooting too much and getting his teammates involved enough. Those sort of doubts can create an even split second of hesitation that takes an edge and certainty from a shooter. It can turn makes into misses.
With Lin, the pick and roll, and ball movement back at the center of the offense, Anthony’s numbers might go down. If he has grown as a player and is truly more concerned with winning than points, he’ll be fine with it. Only time will tell, but whether Anthony can truly fit into D’Antoni’s offense will determine how successful this Knicks season will be. Both Anthony and D’Antoni will be judged on how well he does.
Carmelo’s injury might well be a blessing in disguise. While resting the groin, I have no doubt his ankle and wrist have improved as well. He’ll probably come back more healthy than he has been in weeks. While hurt, he has also seen how well the Knicks offense can work with ball movement, unselfish play and a good point guard. He’s seen how good it can be. When he played in D’Antoni’s system in the Olympics he fit in seamlessly. He has shown a willingness to pass more this season. This can work, and it will be up to him and the Coach to make sure it does.
You can follow me on twitter for everything on the Knicks, Giants and New York Sports at: https://twitter.com/#!/Schmeelk.