By John Schmeelk
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On Wednesday night, Jeremy Lin only played 26 minutes. He only took six shots. Yet, to me, it was his most impressive performance as a Knick. He had 13 assists and made the Knicks offense look as efficient as it has all season long. That’s what a great point guard can do: make it look easy.
Landry Fields looks like his old self, Tyson Chandler leads the NBA in field goal percentage and Iman Shumpert is once again looking like a late first steal, and an impact rookie. Obviously, those individuals deserve credit but some of their recent success can be traced back to Lin. He gets them the ball in rhythm, cutting to the basket, and where they can succeed. That’s what a point guard does: make everyone around him better.
The scoring has been a great bonus, but it’s the playmaking that will keep Jeremy Lin in Knicks fans minds as their future point guard. That’s why last night was so important; he was able to affect the game in such a powerful way without shooting a lot. Once Carmelo Anthony gets back and the Knicks have their full complement of scorers, Lin must first and foremost be a playmaker.
The days of 20 plus shots a game, and being the leading scorer will be over. It will be Lin’s responsibility to get everyone else involved and make sure the offense continues to flow. He has been the epicenter of the unselfish play that has infected the entire roster in the last two weeks. That must continue, especially with the return of Carmelo Anthony.
Lin’s one issue has been with turnovers. While high, they have been more of a result of the ball being in his hands all the time than bad decisions. He has been guilty of trying to squeeze a couple interior passes into spaces that are too small, but the risk/reward of those plays are acceptable. All young point guards have issues with turnovers and decisions. As much as Lin has been a star the past two weeks, it has also been a huge learning experience. He has never played sustained minutes against the caliber of athlete and player that he does in the NBA on a nightly basis.
With Stoudemire and Anthony out, the Knicks have also asked him to do an awful lot, throwing the fate of the team on his shoulders for an extended period. That sort of pressure will lead to turnovers. The Knicks simply asked him to do too much. A lot of that responsibility will be taken off of his shoulders with the return of Carmelo Anthony. I’ve read dozens of stories the past week analyzing what affect Melo’s return will have on the Knicks new synergy and this is the conclusion I’ve come to.
Carmelo Anthony and Jeremy Lin should make each other better. Anthony will provide another threat defenses can’t cheat off of when Lin runs the pick and roll. He gives Lin another option on dishes off all that movement the high screen can provide. Similarly, Anthony will get the ball in rhythm and in better places to score than he did when the Knicks didn’t have a point guard.
The same way Anthony will lift the scoring pressure from Lin, Lin will lift the playmaking pressure off of Anthony. With Toney Douglas, Iman Shumpert and Mike Bibby trying to play point guard earlier this season, Carmel o Anthony had to take on the role of point forward. This changing role made him question his own habits, and decision making, something never good for a player.
Fans shouldn’t be worried about Anthony taking too many shots. Everyone wants him taking around 20 shots a game. He might be the best pure scorer in the NBA. Taking that away from him doesn’t help anyone, certainly not the Knicks. The key will be whether he can get those shots and looks in the midst of the offense and off of ball movement. If he can get those shots in the flow of the game, the Knicks might be the toughest team to guard in the league.
I don’t have any doubt Carmelo will try to do just that. He showed more of a willingness to pass this season, and he was one of Jeremy Lin’s biggest supporters. He wants to fit in and that’s a great sign for the Knicks. If JR Smith comes to town, it will only make the Knicks offense that much more dynamic. People shouldn’t fear the future, they should look forward to it. Lin and Anthony together should work, and help both guys mask their deficiencies. They complement each other well and will make the Knicks a very dangerous playoff team.
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