The Jeremy Lin Show is going international! The newly reborn, hottest-story-in-sports New York Knicks visit the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night looking for their sixth straight win. Their winning streak began when Jeremy Lin started earning big minutes 10 days ago. However, Lin and the Knicks have done this without those two guys who were considered their superstars until Lin burst onto the scene. Almost comically, now people are wondering whether Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, who will make about a combined $33 million to play basketball this season, can find a way to co-exist with a guy who was playing in the D-League a few weeks back. The world of sports is funny.
But it's actually a valid question, and we get our first snippet of that on Tuesday in Toronto as Stoudemire is expected to be back in the lineup. He's missed the Knicks' past four games, grieving the death of his older brother last Monday. Anthony got hurt early in the Knicks' win over Utah, the same day Stoudemire left the team, and since then the Knicks have looked like totally different team. Quite frankly, they've looked like the type of basketball team Mike D'Antoni dreams of. With Lin running the point, the Knicks have been playing constant pick-and-roll basketball, and Lin's ability to get inside the lane has opened up acres of space for the other Knicks to operate. Who's benefited (other than D'Antoni, James Dolan, Madison Square Garden and Knicks fans)? Steve Novak, Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert, who have all seen their games rise dramatically since Lin's insertion.
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And out of the "who can buy in" race, most point to Stoudemire over Anthony as the one who should have no issues. The Steve Nash comparisons are the main force behind that, as Stoudemire has proven he is compatible with a solid point guard in a pick-and-roll system. He's one of the best at-the-rim finishers in the league, and conventional wisdom says that Lin's ability to drive the lane and create easy baskets for others will allow Stoudemire to get plenty of looks from about 5 feet. Lin and Stoudemire should thrive together, right? Of course, Lin coming out of nowhere to lead the Knicks to five straight wins and earn a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated went against everything conventional wisdom is about, so tread carefully.
The Raptors (9-20) are a team that wants to slow things down, which is now the opposite of how the Knicks will look to run things with Lin. An interesting thing to keep an eye on is that the Raptors are the team with most fouls in the league. That could point to a rough and tumble type of defense (Toronto ranks in the middle of the pack in most major defensive categories), but it's a factor the Knicks could look to exploit in their favor. New York has scored more easy baskets in the past five games than seemingly all year, much thanks to Lin's insertion and the renewed ball movement by the entire offense. With Stoudemire back, Tyson Chandler down low and Lin getting into the lane, the Knicks could prove to be a handful for a Raptors defense without a game-changing presence in the middle.
Eventually, we'll see how Lin meshes with both Stoudemire and Anthony, who have yet to play well together consistently since Anthony became a Knick last February. Perhaps Lin could be the missing piece that makes the whole thing work. Or maybe his style, the style the Knicks have played without Stoudemire and Anthony, is so diametrically different from what those two know that it simply won't work. It remains to be seen, and tonight we get our first if not yet complete look at it.