Rather than wonder if Kobe Bryant now knows who Jeremy Lin is, perhaps the more pressing question is whether Carmelo Anthony does. Lin, who established a new career high in scoring – rinse, repeat – with 38 points last night against the Los Angeles Lakers, also managed to exceed ‘Melo’s 37-point Christmas Day effort in becoming the highest-scoring Knick this season.
Even better, after wreaking havoc in starts this week against the Nets, Jazz and Wizards by getting into the paint at will, in front a raucous Garden-crowd last night, Lin displayed another dimension to his overall game by nailing 8-of-13 his field-goals-made via the jumper. So The Secretary of the Linterior isn’t a one-trick-pony, after all.
As an aside, in an effort to improve my station in life, I tried sleeping on the couch last night, but all I got for my trouble was a sore lower back and a wake-up-french-kiss from my Labrador retriever.
In all seriousness, I’m running out of words to describe what has now become a nightly occurrence with the Knicks. Madison Square Garden was truly a Linsane asylum last night. In fact, short of Aaron Boone’s dramatic 13th-inning home run against the Red Sox to conclude the 2003 ALCS, nothing I have ever witnessed comes close. Maybe this is one time where sitting down, shutting up and enjoying the ride makes perfect sense.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- At this point, the only thing more impressive than Lin’s play is the undeniable effect he’s had upon his teammates, particularly Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert and Steve Novak. Lin’s ability to keep his dribble regardless of what the defense does allows him to find the open man on most possessions, and though his teammates didn’t shoot the rock particularly well last night, everyone remained involved, and that can only benefit the Knicks once Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire return. Prior to the game, Shumpert spoke of how he relishes the opportunity to learn from Lin, especially with regard to spacing, knowing when to attack the basket and knowing where to deliver the ball. It’s just another way – this one behind the scenes – that Lin’s contributions are being felt beyond the win column and box scores.
- “D-FENCE!” Sure, the Lakers are an older team that was playing the second half of a back-to-back – they shot just 37.5% from the field against the Knicks one night after an overtime victory in Boston – but Landry Fields was an absolute defensive beast against Bryant last night. In comparison to their previous match-ups, Fields displayed a much better understanding of what Kobe likes to do, and he repeatedly forced the Laker-SG into difficult spinning, fade-away jump shots. Despite the danger of help-defending Bryant – with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum always capable of making defense pay for that strategy – the Knicks managed to pick their spots wisely, and both Lin and Shumpert were particularly effective in forcing Kobe to rely on teammates or take low-percentage shots.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- If there is anything to worry about when it comes to Lin – besides the impending chemistry issues that are sure to evolve, or devolve – it’s probably the extremely high minutes-played he’s tallied since being named a starter four games ago. The 23-year-old has logged 36, 45, 36 and 39 minutes in those games, and despite Mike D’Antoni’s willingness to “ride him like Secretariat,” caution should be exercised. The situation should alleviate itself once STAT ‘n ‘Melo return (on account of more minutes for Shumpert at PG), but it’s worth noting regardless. A healthy Baron Davis (DRINK!) would obviously mitigate my concerns.
- A well-placed source within the Knick organization tells me that Toney Douglas is not in coach D’Antoni’s doghouse and is not injured. The reality is that Toney is dealing with some serious and ongoing off-court personal issues, and that is likely the primary reason for his inexplicably poor play this season. Look, we all know that Douglas is not a viable NBA point guard, but scorers don’t forget how to score overnight. Instead of booing Douglas every time he checks into a home game – if he ever again does – perhaps Knick fans should encourage him and support him. It isn’t like the boos are going to help him regain his confidence. Capiche?
- In fairness to the Kobe – who is every bit as standoffish in person as he appears to be on television – not only is he now aware of what “Linsanity” is, but he actually managed to sound sincere in praising to the Knick-PG’s efforts. “I think it’s a great story,” Bryant said. “I think it’s a testament to perseverance and hard work. Good example for kids everywhere.”
- Laker PG Derek Fisher made his 400th consecutive start last night, and it showed. The Old Man also maintains the NBA’s longest active games-played streak (522), which is something of a miracle when you consider that he hasn’t logged a DNP (horrendous play) in a long while.
- It was a star-studded celebrity row last night as Ben Stiller, The Rock, Justin Tuck, Brandon Jacobs, Hakeem Nicks and Antrel Rolle were in attendance. No word yet on whether Jacobs made racially insensitive comments about Lin after the game.
- There is nothing funnier than the Chinese media contingent during a Jeremy Lin post-game presser. Nothing.
- Speaking of racially insensitive, did you see what Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock tweeted last night? What a world-class [insert adjective here]. The funny thing is that while Whitlock, an African American, may – and I stress may – be stereotypically well-endowed, Jeremy Lin gets to hang out with Knick City Dancers. Can you say “Linning?!”
- Tonight the Knicks participate in the so-dubbed “Puppy Bowl”, facing off on against Ricky Rubio at the Minnesota Timberwolves (8:00 p.m.)
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Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images