By Sean Hartnett
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Jeremy Lin and the Houston Rockets invade Madison Square Garden on Monday night, and the man who briefly captured the hearts of New York City will be under the microscope.
We’re less than a year removed from the peak of “Linsanity,” and already the Knicks’ decision not to match Houston’s revised three-year, $25 million offer sheet is justified. Actually, the Knicks came out of it smelling like a rose.
Forget about the financial implications or the marketing value had Lin remained in New York. The Knicks purely made a wise on-court basketball decision by letting Lin sign the $25 million deal to land in the tax-free state of Texas.
General manager Glen Grunwald, Mike Woodson and, yes, James Dolan all deserve appreciation for not caving to the lure of “Linsanity.” Fans clearly wanted Lin to call Madison Square Garden home for the foreseeable future, and many expressed their doubts when an overweight Raymond Felton was reacquired and an aging Jason Kidd was handed a three-year deal.
Knicks Aren’t Regretting Losing “Linsanity” On The Court
Felton is playing at an All-Star level. The bright lights of New York seem to have a transforming effect on Felton, who is averaging 16.3 points per game and 6.8 assists per game. Like Peter Parker after getting bit by a radioactive spider and becoming Spider-Man, playing in New York brings out Felton’s superpowers.
Kidd, meanwhile, is still going strong at 39. He’s perfected his trademark alley-oops with Tyson Chandler. He’s even added a consistent three-point shot to his arsenal. Kidd is shooting 48.3 percent from beyond the arc, and he was well above 50 percent before a 3-for-13 off-night from downtown against the Cavaliers.
Individual stats can only tell part of the story, but to those who watch the Knicks every night, Felton and Kidd’s impact is immeasurable. The Knicks are demonstrating beautiful ball movement, unselfishness and confidence thanks to the impact of veteran guards Kidd and Felton.
Lin Isn’t Playing Like A Star In The Lone Star State
Lin is not an orchestrator. He’s a player whose game is predicated on slashing toward the basket. Occasionally he’ll make a few flashy passes, but he’s unable to run the pick-and-roll with the command that Felton and Kidd have demonstrated throughout their careers.
Through 23 appearances in the 2012-13 NBA regular season, Lin averaged 10.8 points per game and 6.0 assists per game. While those are decent numbers for a starting point guard, they’re hardly jaw-dropping figures.
His field-goal percentage has fallen to 38.9 percent from the 44.6 percent that he shot in 35 games with the Knicks.
Outside of a 38-point effort against the Spurs a week ago and a 19 point, eight-assist game against the Jazz earlier this month, Lin has been very ordinary in December.
Heading into Madison Square Garden, Lin is averaging 6.0 points per game and 4.5 assists per game in his two outings against the Raptors and Celtics.
Much of the focus on Monday night’s game will be whether Lin gets booed, cheered or receives a mixture of applause. Perhaps, the Madison Square Garden crowd will lay back and yawn during Lin’s introduction, considering the way Felton and Kidd have the Knicks playing the best basketball in the Eastern Conference at 18-5.
Thankfully for Knicks fans, the decision-making brass at MSG weren’t “Linsane” enough to match Houston’s offer.
Has Lin become a non-factor? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.