It turns out that after years of fretting over the dangers of currency manipulation, Jeremy Lin was the answer to the U.S.-China trade deficit problem all along. “Linception” continued to pay dividends last night in Washington – 23 points, 10 assists and 4 rebounds – as the New York Knicks won their third straight game and improved to 11-15 on the season.
Perhaps more shocking (as if anything could possibly shock more) than Lin’s third straight all-world performance – per Elias, he’s the first player to collect 20+ points & 8+ assists in his first two NBA starts since LeBron James accomplished the feat back in 2003 – was the fact that the Knicks won again despite the unavailability of their two best players, Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. The team announced yesterday that they do not expect Amar’e to rejoin the team until next Monday (more on that below), and ‘Melo remains sidelined for the next 1-2 weeks with a strained groin (more on that below, too).
With respect to Lin, let’s make one thing perfectly clear: Mike D’Antoni deserves neither the credit for “discovering” Lin, nor the blame for “not discovering” Lin sooner.
Instead, both D’Antoni and his system deserve at least a modicum of vindication. Say what you will about the Knick coach’s alleged proclivity to favor obstinacy over adaptation, but there no longer exists a credible argument that his offense doesn’t work when properly staffed. Those who will now seek to rewrite history – not coincidentally, the same people who have incessantly called for D’Antoni’s dismissal – should acknowledge that turning to Lin when the team was in the midst of losing 9-of-10 would have been the equivalent to Seppuku for the oft-embattled coach. Yes, I realize that the dude from Ronin was referencing some masterless ninjas from Japan, not China, but whatever, disembowelments rule.
Most everyone knows that Gotham is a damned-if-you-damned-if-you-don’t kinda town, but not even folks like me – who called for more Lin-minutes weeks ago – could have predicted these kinds of results from Lin, who scored all of 76 points in total last season, let alone in his last three games for the Knicks. Hindsight may be 20-20, but no one saw this coming, nor should they have. Including D’Antoni.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- 25, 23, 19, 17, 16. No, those aren’t your most recent Chinese astrology numbers, that’s the Knicks’ scoring distribution last night in Washington. And that is the beauty of the aforementioned D’Antoni-offense; when a serviceable point guard distributes the basketball with even average consistency, every other player on the floor tends to “get his.” Lots of [foolish] people are already comparing Lin to the incomparable Steve Nash, a truly silly exercise, but one way that the Harvard (DRINK!) product does emulate the Suns’ point guard is in the way he positions himself with the ball versus defenders. Lin is almost never out of control when dribbling, and he maintains constant awareness of his teammates’ locations relative to both himself and each other. Unlike the seemingly uncoachable Toney Douglas or the learning-on-the-job Iman Shumpert, Lin also keeps his head up when driving to the hole and seems unfazed by a collapsing defense. Pick ‘N Roll efficiency aside, a skill at which Lin has already demonstrated relative proficiency, the only thing we have yet to see is a consistent jump shot. Nash kills teams that give him open looks; Lin, not so much, at least so far. Like any other professional sports league, the NBA is one of adjustments, so it’s just a matter of time before opposing teams treat Lin like they do Rajon Rondo (sliding under picks and playing him softly on-the-ball), until the Knick guard proves he can hit from outside. That being said, even if Lin can’t shoot from 18 feet and beyond, his vision and passing are obviously here to stay.
- One of the benefits to being a credentialed media member is getting to see how players prepare for that night’s game, and if there is one thing I’ve noticed – at the Garden, anyway – it’s that Steve Novak is always prepared to contribute. Prior to STAT’s & ‘Melo’s absence, Novak hadn’t even played in the Knicks’ previous three games (he’s averaging just under 11 minutes-per-game this season), yet he is one of the few players I have seen working diligently with the team’s assistant coaches before every tip-off. Novak can be an invaluable piece to the Knick-pizzle, and his lethal prowess from long-range more than offsets his defensive shortcomings (if his minutes are well-managed and the matchups are favorable).
- At this point, I am fresh-out of accolades for Tyson Chandler. We can now confidently answer the question of where the Knicks would be without him: nowhere. To put things into perspective, Chandler merely shot 7-of-12 from the floor last night and his season FG% actually DROPPED to 71.9%. The nerve of him! That the Knicks are ranked 10th in defensive efficiency (they were 21st last year) speaks volumes to just what an effect Chandler has had here.
- For a PG, Shumpert is a pretty good swing man. 17 points, 4 rebounds 3 steals and active defense over 37 minutes? Yes, please.
- Toney Douglas did not play last night (coach’s decision).
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- Toney Douglas did not play last night (coach’s decision). Notwithstanding the sheer joy at not having to watch TD run around like a chicken with its head cut off, the Knicks would really be a lot better off if the third-year guard somehow finds his game again. Douglas is a career 41% shooter from long-range (this, despite shooting just 31% this year), and assuming his shoulder is healthy, there is no reason why his confidence can’t be rehabilitated. Unfortunately, the D-league does not appear to be a viable path for Douglas, per the NBA website.
- Not be overlooked regarding the Knicks’ mini-winning streak is who they have beaten. New Jersey, Utah and Washington are a combined 8 million games below.500. The schedule remains fairly manageable for the rest of February, but come March, things are going to get a lot tougher for the Knicks. Getting back over .500 before the end of the month is absolutely critical.
- I am actually starting to prefer watching episodes of Sid the Science Kid to watching Billy Walker attempt to play basketball. If you have children (and a television set), you know just how unbearable the PBS show is for anyone under age 3.
- Picture this: The Garden-lights are turned off for home-player introductions against the Los Angeles Lakers tomorrow night, and instead of calling Jared Jefferies‘ name, Knicks’ public address announcer Mike Walczewski shocks the crowd by bellowing a surprise Amar’eeeeeeeeeee Stoudemire!!! A spokesman for STAT said Wednesday that funeral services for his brother, Hazell will be held Saturday in Fla., so it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that Amar’e pulls a Willis Reed. Solely from an emotional standpoint, it would be hard to imagine a more affecting scene, were it to unfold that way. That said, Amar’e’s family rightly comes first.
- Credit Dan from Knicks Fan Blog for first positing that the Knicks might actually benefit from Anthony’s injury absence. Not only will ‘Melo be afforded time to allow his various nicks to heal (ankle, wrist, thumb, groin, brain), presumably helping him get his season back on track, but an ancillary benefit of his medical leave will be more minutes for what had been an extremely thin bench prior to Lin’s coming out party. In Shumpert, a rejuvenated Jefferies and Novak, the Knicks have three integral bench-pieces. If/when Baron Davis stops sticking things into his elbow, if/when Toney Douglas is remade as an offensive weapon, and when Josh Harrellson returns from a broken wrist, the Knicks will suddenly be as deep as they are diverse. God help the rest of the Eastern Conference if ‘melo actually buys into the system upon his return.
- Up next for the ‘Bockers: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum come to MSG on tomorrow night (8:00 p.m.)
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Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images