As Linsanity continues to take over the world (and with a second consecutive Sports Illustrated cover), there is, to no one's surprise, a backlash forming. Everyone is chiming in. Boxer Floyd Mayweather inserted his two cents: "Jeremy Lin is a good player, but all the hype is because he's Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don't get the same praise." Dallas Maverick Jason Terry suggested that Lin is solely a product of Mike D'Antoni's offensive system: "To me, it's 100 percent what it is . . . ninety-five percent . . . If you play 46 minutes (a game) in this league, you have an opportunity to put up some nice numbers. Again, it is what it is. He'll have to maintain this pace. It's going to be tough. Ask anybody: Give them an opportunity, ball in their hands, 20-plus shots and you better do something." Insensitive racial remarks have been popping up here and there, whether intentional or accidental. Opposing teams now come into the Garden viewed only as "the visitors," or maybe the Washington Generals, playing second fiddle to Lin and the New York Knicks. When the Knicks go on the road, those fans are becoming offended by the Lin supporters in the crowd and boo them when they cheer the Knick point guard. And some non-Knick players haven't caught a dose of Linsanity yet, such as Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets, who sounded a bit incredulous when he was asked to comment on Lin when his team wasn't even playing the Knicks that particular night (though Williams was complimentary about the Knick after his Nets won their showdown).
Lost in all the hoopla and hysteria is the fact that Lin is a young, developing player who is still in the early stages of his career, learning how to play in the league and only has 11 NBA starts under his belt. Of course he's not going to score 38 points every night, of course he's not going to hit a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer every game, of course he's going to turn the ball over and of course he's going to make mistakes and have to adjust his game as the season goes on. He may be a perfect fit for D'Antoni's system, but not just anyone can be plugged in and attain instant success, as we saw with Toney Douglas, Iman Shumpert and Mike Bibby. Maybe when the puns subside and the initial excitement fades, he can just settle into being a growing, learning-as-he-goes-along second-year player, who shouldn't be expected to be perfect or be labeled "overrated" because he doesn't have a spectacular, highlight-reel game. He's 23 years old. He's been an NBA starter for less than a month. Let's not forget that.
And now on to the top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
New Ingredients Added to the Mix: After one long string of success in the Jeremy Lin Era, the Knicks have now hit some speed bumps, with some ups and downs as their lineup morphs and evolves. They lost to the New Orleans Hornets on Friday, with Lin's nine turnovers being the glaring stat from that game. But on Sunday, with J.R. Smith making his Knicks debut, they defeated the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. Smith hit some early threes, and Steve Novak was the star at the end, draining one key bucket after another. Teams are now throwing everything at Lin in an attempt to stop him -- double and triple teaming him, banging and hitting him, and Dallas even put Shawn Marian and occasionally Dirk Nowitzki on him -- but Lin still dished for a career-high 14 assists (and scored 28 points). After that impressive win, they lost to the New Jersey Nets, as they were three-pointed to death, with Deron Williams getting his revenge for being outplayed when Linsanity began a few weeks ago (Iman Shumpert's defensive intensity was surely missed in that game, and he's officially out of the slam dunk contest, so we won't get to see his planned couch-jumping antics). Carmelo Anthony returned, and he was as rusty as could be, missing layups and turning the ball over. Baron Davis also played his first game of the year, as the Knicks' roster continues to change with every game. Everything worked on Wednesday, though, with five players scoring in double digits, in their romp over the Atlanta Hawks, which was more a glorified scrimmage than an actual game but it was just what the Knicks needed to get everyone on the floor and in the flow of a game. But all was reversed on Thursday in their blowout loss to the Miami Heat, where nothing went right. The All-Star break and a chance to actually practice with all their new/returning players couldn't come at a better time.
They're Not Gonna Take It: Deron Williams showed everyone who the best point guard in the area is when he led his Nets to victories over the Chicago Bulls and the Knicks this week (though they mixed in a loss to the Bucks). Tired of the Linsanity and being treated like second-class citizens, the Nets, and Williams in particular, stuck it to the Knicks, bombing away, making 15 three-pointers, in their chippy, bad-blooded 100-92 victory. Williams made eight threes himself and scored 38 points in the game. They finished the week getting shellacked by the Orlando Magic, though, and the night was all about Dwight Howard. The Nets showed him just how much they need him. And in good news for the depleted Nets, Brook Lopez returned to action this week.
Just Like Old Times: The New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils now stand atop the Eastern Conference in points (the Devils are actually tied with the Bruins), just like in the good old days of the 1990s when they were both powerhouses and winning Stanley Cups. The Devils won all three games they played this week, defeating the Ducks in a shootout on Friday with Martin Brodeur putting in another vintage performance, beating the Canadiens on Sunday and edging the Maple Leafs in overtime on Mark Fayne's knuckleball on Tuesday. They're 8-1-1 in February and are talking about catching the Rangers for first place. The Blueshirts, meanwhile, went 1-1 this week, beating Columbus in overtime on Sunday (Derek Stepan scored so quickly that possible-future-Ranger Rick Nash shouldn't have bothered to tie it in the last minute of the third period) but losing to the Penguins, 2-0, on Tuesday. They've now lost two of their last three games, with no regulation wins in that span, which constitutes as big a slump as the Rangers have had all season. And after winning consistently and climbing a bit in the standings, the New York Islanders went 1-2 this week, and have lost three of their last four.
Hello, I Must Be Going: Brian Cashman worked a miracle by making one of his big mistakes disappear when he shipped A.J. Burnett (along with $20 million) to the Pittsburgh Pirates for two (non-)prospects, pitcher Diego Moreno and outfielder Exicardo Cayones. Burnett thanked everyone for his time with the New York Yankees by blaming all but himself for his shortcomings. He's 35 years old and he still doesn't get it, and most likely never will. With that subtraction to the roster, the Yankees signed their DH, when they inked Raul Ibanez to a one-year $1.1 million deal, in the hopes that he has just enough left to consistently reach that short right-field porch in Yankee Stadium. They also signed Eric Chavez to a one-year $900,000 contract. And the anti-Burnett, Mariano Rivera, arrived in spring training and told everyone that he has made up his mind on whether this will be his last season, but won't reveal his plans -- but he sures sound like 2012 will be his swan song. Over in Port St. Lucie, Johan Santana had three bullpen sessions this week, throwing 25 pitches on Friday, 29 on Tuesday and 32 on Thursday, and in promising news for the New York Mets, his arm didn't fall off, and in fact he didn't feel any pain at all. Terry Collins is optimistic he'll be ready for opening day.
A Changed Man? Rex Ryan uncharacteristically admitted that guaranteeing a Super Bowl victory last year was not the right thing to do and may have even hurt his team. "Looking back, obviously it was a huge mistake to make that guarantee. . . . But in hindsight I think it put undue pressure on our team and we kind of lost focus and really we lost focus on what we do best. . . . When I go back and I look at it I think it contributed to the season we had." Wasn't it Tom Coughlin who was supposed to change and be more like Ryan instead of the other way around?
And that's the New York week that was.