The Knicks it seems have been mired in a decades long slump on the NBA frontier. Big budgets aside, the Knicks come across as incompetent in their ability to put together a decent team to represent the grand history of basketball in the Big Apple. Year after year they seemed to bring in management that is more hype than substance. They signed “big name” players to max contracts but all it got them was disappointments and regular boos from the crowd. It goes to show you that money doesn’t make a championship. So when the Knicks got Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony together, everyone was naively putting the Knicks on the elite list of basketball teams up there with the Heat, Lakers, Celtics, and Thunder.
But in this shortened lockout season, the Knicks have stumbled to a record of 10-15, and this is with two superstars in Stoudemire and Carmelo. Those in the know would have reasoned Carmelo is not a real star or lacks leadership skills. But the reality is that the Knicks lack a solid team, to begin with.
For one they don’t have a premier point guard and the one they are waiting to return is the over-the-hill Baron Davis. The other point guards are an unmotivated and old Mike Bibby and a couple of unknowns. Of course, they also have Jeremy Lin, an untested guard who was playing in the development league only earlier.
Mike D’Antoni, the coach of the Knicks could be fired at any moment. Knowing that he didn’t have a real starting point guard and with little options, he decided to experiment and placed Jeremy Lin in the lineup against the New Jersey Nets one Saturday afternoon when Carmelo went down with an injury. Little did he know just what he had unleashed. With huge cheers from the crowd, Lin exploded for 25 points and 7 assists and helped the Knicks win in a tight game. Tasting a little bit of success, the next day with both Amare and Carmelo out, D’Antoni decided to start Lin in the game against the Utah Jazz on Monday night. And boy did Lin ever deliver! 28 points and 8 assists were his stats for his first NBA career start. Lin led the Knicks to a win behind a suddenly hopeful New York crowd.
The cheers follow Jeremy Lin no matter which team he plays on. The Harvard graduate started his NBA career coming off the bench during garbage time in Golden State but always received the loudest cheers for the entire evening. With Asian Americans cheering for Lin in every city he plays, the NBA has much to gain from the Lin spectacle. When Lin came to Toronto, over 20 Chinese media members were on hand to cover the game in hopes of getting a chance to interview a player who was glued to the bench.
Lin is a phenomenon in the making for a variety of reasons. He is an American born Chinese at a time when China has gone basketball mad. There is a wave of Chinese Americans and Canadians that quietly root for his success and they show up in every city to loudly support his journey. He is an underdog, not a top draft pick. And he plays with a style that makes the crowd go wild. Possessing quickness and ability to cut through crowds, he is an energetic buzz amongst a backdrop of stationary players.
So is there a downside to this guy? Well, he’s not a starter. The Golden State Warrior, in fact, waived him and Houston also waived him, reasoning that he is not a number 1 point guard. The Knicks happened to claim him off waiver and he was not initially a starter. Jeremy is young at 22 years old and still has much to learn to play in the NBA. Jeremy, however, is very down to earth and knows that he has much to improve in his game.
Jeremy continues to be an experiment for the Knicks. D’Antoni has found some relief in the 2 wins Jeremy has helped produce. But now Lin has a real chance to prove himself, where in Golden State he was mostly sitting on the bench.
Tonight Jeremy Lin and the Knicks will roll into the nation’s capital to battle it out with John Wall and the Washington Wizards. In some ways, it will be a rematch between the two point guards. John Wall, who at the time was the number 1 draft pick, was upstaged by Jeremy’s great play the last time these two met in a summer league game. So it will be personal for John Wall, whose team has also struggled mightily.
Should Jeremy Lin go into Washington tonight without both Carmelo and Amare and come away with the win, the world may not be ready to face the buzz that will follow this kid.