By Steve Kallas
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Why wait until next year? It’s not too late this year. Jeremy Lin should be an All-Star. Now. Certainly, somehow, David Stern can get this done. Any player drops out of the East squad, put Lin in. If no player drops out, add him to the roster. While the NBA All-Star Game, like virtually every other All-Star game, is now a meaningless exhibition, what is the NBA All-Star Game this year without Jeremy Lin? Even a more meaningless exhibition game, if that’s possible.
You can do this, David Stern. And your TV ratings will go through the roof.
WHAT’S THE MOST TELLING PLAY THAT LIN HAS MADE TO DATE?
You might think that it’s hitting a three near the buzzer to beat Toronto. You might think it’s dropping 38 on the Lakers. You might think that it’s any one of a number of lobs or no-look passes leading to easy dunks for non-offensive players.
But it’s none of those plays. The play that showed you that Jeremy Lin is an NBA player happened during the Laker game. Obviously, part of the Laker game plan against Lin was to beat him up, to try and physically wear him down and/or intimidate him. Nobody thought Derek Fisher could guard Lin (and he couldn’t). But there was one play that, in this writer’s opinion, showed that Lin is here to stay. A shot is taken and the ball goes the other way. Only Jeremy Lin and Kobe Bryant remain under the basket. Kobe, away from the ball, gives Jeremy Lin a shove. And Jeremy Lin, here to stay, shoves Kobe back.
A little thing? Not at all, if you understand what the Lakers were trying to do. What they did do was tire Lin out for the next night, where he was woeful against Minnesota in the second half but still managed to hit the winning foul shot with 4.9 seconds left.
IS IT REALLY A LEGITIMATE QUESTION THAT THIS KID IS A FLASH IN THE PAN?
Not a chance. A point guard with a brain. What a concept. And I don’t mean just a Harvard brain (although that doesn’t hurt). I mean a basketball brain that is off the charts. Jeremy Lin can play the pick and roll with any big man in the NBA. And, even if his shooting doesn’t stay at the high level it has been at, that excellent decision-making ability will keep him in the league for years as a playmaker.
Is he legit? Of course. Is he a flash in the pan? Not a chance. You can’t teach the decision-making ability that this kid has. You can’t teach the feel for the game that this kid has. Nor can you teach the toughness that this kid has. Nor the quickness. How do you explain it? Well, he didn’t learn his toughness in the Ivy League. He must have learned this in schoolyards or playgrounds when he was a younger player (hopefully an intelligent interviewer will ask him that question).
HOW WAS JEREMY LIN (ALMOST?) OVERLOOKED?
The almost with a question mark is because he was overlooked. Until now. Here’s a kid, successful at every level, clearly with NBA quickness in college (admittedly at Harvard), who really never got a fair shot.
Sure he was on the Mavericks summer team in 2009 (where he torched John Wall; Google that video). Sure he signed a contract with Golden State but never really got a fair chance. Sure he was signed and released by the Rockets, where he also never really got a fair look.
And he was about to be cut by the Knicks (no matter what you hear). Here’s what Jeremy Lin had to have happen in order to get a fair chance: Toney Douglas had to prove he couldn’t be a starting point guard in Mike D’Antoni’s system. Mike Bibby had to prove he couldn’t be a starting point guard in Mike D’Antoni’s system. Iman Shumpert had to prove he couldn’t be a starting point guard in Mike D’Antoni’s system. And the guy formerly known as the saviour, Baron Davis, had to be hurt the whole season and then get hurt again as he was close to playing.
Oh, and it didn’t hurt that shooting stars Carmelo and Amar’e were, essentially, out for this whole miracle.
Was there some stereotyping involved? Probably. Racism? A tougher question. But certainly, at a minimum, no matter what you hear, an Asian kid who walks onto a basketball court at a high level game certainly gets some strange looks if not outright disdain.
But Jeremy Lin has turned even this into a positive. A confident kid like him (one who knows he can play and is quicker than virtually everyone) is actually at an advantage when the guy who is guarding him figures he can’t be that good just because he’s Asian-American. Or because he played at Harvard. By the time the defender understands how good Lin is, the game is half-over, if not totally over.
FORCE HIM LEFT?
Well, you’ve already heard the new theory. Teams that are “scouting” Lin decide to make him go left because he is quick and deadly to his right.
Be serious! Every right-handed point guard on the planet is made to go left. But the amazing ones, including Jeremy Lin, can go left (and do some damage) and, at times, start left and go back right. Look at the John Wall summer game video; the first two moves against Wall are to Lin’s left. Look at the amazing spin move against Derek Fisher; the initial move is to the right but the spin is actually to the left. What about that thunderous dunk? The first move is to his left followed by the crossover to his right hand for an amazing dunk.
SO, DID JEREMY LIN REALLY COME FROM NOWHERE?
Well, it’s interesting to hear virtually every coach Lin had say that he could play in the NBA. So, again, why did he almost not make it? Kobe, after Lin scored 38 against the Lakers, had a great comment: “Players don’t usually come out of nowhere. If you can go back and take a look, his skill level was probably there from the beginning, but no one ever noticed.”
Interesting, no? Given the fact that he was on three NBA teams (and played summer ball for a fourth), somebody noticed, but not to the point of giving him a real chance. Now that he (finally) got one, he lit the world on fire.
Are there other Jeremy Lins in the past who never quite got the chance and drifted into oblivion? I think the answer to that is yes, even though I can’t name them (for obvious reasons). Do I think that the next Asian-American kid who can really play will get a better look and a chance sooner than Jeremy Lin? Absolutely. But players like this don’t grow on trees.
And to think that Jeremy Lin was just days away from, maybe, slipping into that oblivion. Makes you wonder about those that came before. Having said that, maybe all teams will take a look at the last players on their roster and give them a better chance than they were given in years past.
I don’t know if there is another Jeremy Lin out there, but I think he has given many longshots a better chance to succeed (at many levels) than they had just two weeks ago.
By the way, this doesn’t mean that the D’Antoni “system,” so beneficial to intelligent, quick point guards like Jeremy Lin (and Steve Nash), can win an NBA Championship. But with Lin, a defensive presence like Tyson Chandler, and scorers like Carmelo and Amar’e, in a very weak (outside of the Heat) Eastern Conference, the Knicks can certainly make a playoff run in this strange, shortened NBA season.
A FEW KNICK NOTES: It’s going to be hard for Steve Novak to get the open looks that he’s been getting once the Knicks start playing tough, meaningful games (and, of course, he won’t take as many shots with the return of Carmelo and Amar’e). That’s not really a function of just Jeremy Lin. Once the opposing defense understands that it’s got to stay home with Novak, it’s going to be extremely hard for him to get the open looks he has gotten the last few games.
It says here that Toney Douglas should get the Mike Bibby minutes. Anybody who watched Bibby play poorly for Miami last year understands that he really couldn’t be a key cog in the Knick offense. While he was the leading % three-point shooter the day he showed up in Miami, he played poorly for them. He’s continued to play (and shoot) poorly for the Knicks. Douglas, at least, can defend and, with a little confidence, could be a helpful addition to the rotation.
Going forward, if Jeremy Lin continues to shoot the way he has (which, I think, is the biggest surprise of all in his game), he’s the first option for a final shot. But, when the Knicks run four low (as they did against Toronto), Lin makes the initial move and, if anybody else comes to him on the double team (which, obviously, didn’t happen against Toronto), Lin’s open teammate will get the ball. The second option on four low (of course, that means Lin at the top of the key creating with the ball and the other four guys along the baseline) is to have someone pick for Carmelo and he gets the ball from Lin. Carmelo will be able to live with that, I’m sure (or, at least, hopeful).
Make Jeremy Lin an All-Star? What do you think?