NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Jeremy Lin #17, Steve Novak #16 and Landry Fields #2 of the New York Knicks celebrate after Lin made a 3-point basket in the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden on February 10, 2012 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
Jeremy Lin has become an international icon overnight but he hasn't done it alone. The last 10 days have completely changed the fate of the Knicks season and possible Mike D'Antoni's future.
Lin-sanity might have a nickname recycled from Vince Carter’s Toronto Raptors heyday but the buzz around Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks is unlike anything the NBA has seen. This meteoric rise has been compared to that of Tim Tebow’s emergence but it’s not a valid one. Tebow was arguably the biggest star in college football history and was talked about from the time he was setting high school football records and having laws named after him as a home schooled high school senior. Tebow was unorthodox but never an unknown. Before Lin became an overnight NBA superstar, he warmed the Knicks bench by day and slept on couches by night.
Lin didn’t slowly work his way into the rotation like undrafted superstars from years past. On Sunday, four-time Defensive Player of the Year, Ben Wallace set the NBA record for most games played by an undrafted player but he didn’t become a fan favorite until his fifth season. Instead Lin went from a benchwarmer to averaging 26 and 8 in a matter of 24 hours. His celebrity rise has only been compounded by his meteoric rise taking place in a Knicks jerset along with his status as the only Asian-American starting point guard in NBA history.
His breakout season is a lot like the New York Giants’ Victor Cruz but at least Cruz gave us a screening of his breakout season during the 2010 NFL preseason. However, the NFL and NBA have different dynamics. Superstars emerge from late round picks and undrafted player on a regular basis in the NFL because of the quantity of players that teams must scout each year for their 52-man rosters.
Jared Dubin of the Hardwood Paroxysm explained how unbelievable Lin’s emergence really is.
It’s been the perfect confluence of an innumerable number of events that conspired to save the season and possibly Mike D’Antoni’s job.
Think of all the things that had to occur for JEREMY LIN to happen (and we’ll only go with things that happened THIS season to keep it short and sweet): the Knicks had to amnesty Chauncey Billups to free up the money to sign Tyson Chandler, thus leaving Toney Douglas as the only nominal point guard on the roster; the Warriors had to foolishly cut Lin to create extra salary cap space to sign DeAndre Jordan to an offer sheet that the Clippers were always going to match; the Chris Paul to the Lakers trade had to be vetoed by David Stern so the rockets didn’t get Pau Gasol: the Rockets then had to cut Lin to create room to sign Samuel Dalembert to fill the void on their front line; Baron Davis had to get amnestied by the Cavaliers because of a back injury and proceed to sign with the Knicks with the understanding that he wouldn’t be back until at least half way through the season; Iman Shumpert had to get hurt in his first game as a Knick; Toney Douglas had to struggle so badly as a starting point guard that the Knicks decided to place a waiver claim on Lin purely as a flier; Mike Bibby had to be even worse than last year; and Carmelo and Amar’e had to be missing games at the exact same time that the Knicks had to spiraled into a funk so deep that D’Antoni was in danger of losing his job and had run out of options and it came down to the choice of giving Jeremy Lin a shot against the New Jersey Nets or losing again and getting fired. via Hardwood Paroxysm
Enough has been written about the Lin-sanity phenomenon to fill The Simpsons "Entire Series on DVD" pack but just because he’s captured the nation’s attendance with Stoudemire and Carmelo out doesn’t mean he’s been doing it on his own.
Sports is full of friendships. It’s why Lebron, Bosh and Wade joined forces in Miami but the Knicks may have the nerdiest friendship known in NBA history.
Lin doesn’t share much in common with preps-to-pros phenoms Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire or with one-and-done New York native Carmelo Anthony. However, Fields, who played four years at Stanford and Lin, a Harvard grad have formed more than just an odd NBA friendship complete with a nerdy handshake. They also now compromise the Knicks starting backcourt. Landry Fields has averaged 10.6 points per game since Lin’s ascendance to the starting spot, which is right on par with his season average.
Since joining the starting rotation in the absence of Carmelo and Amare, small forward Steve Novak has established himself as a solid contributor during the #Linning streak. Most importantly, the sharpshooting forward has put on a clinic from outside the arc. In January, Novak averaged 3.6 points and 11.7 minutes per game. In February, Novak averaged 4.0 points per game and 9.7 minutes.
Over the past four games, Novak is averaging 15.5 points per game in 25 minutes per game and has hit 16 of 31 three-pointers the NBA’s most over that span. Another side effect of Lin taking minutes at point guard has been Iman Shumpert shifting back to his natural position as a shooting guard. Playing off the ball, Shumpert has averaged 16 points per game over the last week.
Fields has been a starter for two seasons however, Novak and Lin have performed so well recently that the Knicks may have to make a few changes to their rotation once Amare and Melo return to the team on Tuesday against the Raptors. One of those changes should involve forward Bill Walker spending more time on the pine.
Amare and Lin should gel easily. Amare is a pick and roll power forward that has thrived with point guards such as Chauncey Billups and the incomparable Stave Nash, who can execute the pick and roll effectively.
However, Carmelo will have to adjust his game for the first time in his NBA career. The Knicks ball movement has been extraordinary over the course of the last five games. However, Carmelo plays with glue on his hands and has a tendency to pause and attempt to take his defenders one-on-one. To put things in perspective, the Denver Nuggets have thrived in Carmelo’s absence by leading the league in assists and points.
Whether Shumpert, Novak continue to play at this level long-term remains to be seen, however, if they continue to benefit from Lin’s emergence at point guard, the Knicks will emerge from this volatile stretch as a much more dynamic and highly efficient offensive team.