Who the fuck is Jeremy Lin?
That’s what I would have been saying a week ago had you told me my beloved New York Knicks’ trash heap of a season was going to be saved by the 12th man on the bench, a player that as little as three weeks ago was serving a stint with the NBA D-League Erie Bayhawks.
And yet here I am, talking about a player whose contract wasn’t even guaranteed, whose acquisition was barely even known to Knicks fans, who spent a night on teammate Landry Fields’ couch while his future was being decided by the powers that be within the Knicks organization not so long ago.
So what is it about this 23-year-old second-year point guard out of Harvard that has made him such a shot in the arm to a team that was performing so poorly before his emergence?
Well, for one, he’s a real point guard — that’s usually a good start. Lin is the first player all year to be able to run an efficient pick-and-roll on this Knicks team (a role that fans have been waiting for injured veteran Baron Davis to fill all season), something that is a total necessity when you’re dealing with the likes of behemoth paint scorers Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler (my condolences to Amar’e on the recent loss of his brother, by the way).
Lin also possesses a scary-good set of dribble moves and an uncanny ability of getting to the hoop. As Knicks legend and color commentator Walt “Clyde” Frazier might say, Lin is adept at “dishing and swishing,” among other things.
However, I think there are arguably two more intangible things that Lin brings to this team — smarts and heart.
First, the smarts. The guy went to Harvard! But I doubt he took a point guard class there. No, J-Lin’s smarts are something that he learned on the hardwood, and it’s amazing that nobody discovered this guy before the Knicks happened upon him as a free agent.
One of the top reasons that Lin has been able to be so effective in his recent two-game stretch is that he is so adept at getting to the inside and making the correct decision, be it to pass out if he’s covered, go strong to the hoop, or toss an alley-oop to Chandler on his way in after the pick. He’s running this offense like Steve Nash used to, which is about the greatest compliment a point guard could ever hope to receive (Nash won two MVPs under now-Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni with the Phoenix Suns).
As for the heart, it’s clear that Lin has been inspiring his teammates. One would be very hard-pressed to find the sort of jubilation that the Knicks bench has shown during Lin’s dominance. Normally sports are a business — players should be relatively under control and try not to freak out too much when one of their fellow players is doing well. However, with Lin on the floor, the team erupts as if he just sent them to the NBA Finals on a regular basis. A story as good as Lin’s is one that can touch even a fellow player’s heart, apparently.
Now the only thing missing that will make Lin the starting point guard that the Knicks so desperately need is consistency. I don’t expect him to continue averaging 26.5 points, 7.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds as he has in his first two games in a major role — I think the chants at the Garden of M-V-P the other night would be warranted if he does — but I would love to see maybe 12 points and five assists out of the kid on a nightly basis. Who knows? Maybe if he can manage that he can get Knicks fans not just saying “M-V-P,” but also “Baron who?”