Over the past few days, a lot has been written about Jeremy Lin. At this point, you probably know he went to Harvard, he went undrafted, he wasn’t expected to produce results as he did in his first three games. But a lot of people don’t know how exactly Jeremy Lin got to where he is today, at least where he was just a short two months ago.
In fact, right now, a lot of people blame Mike D’Antoni for not inserting Lin into his starting lineup when he was originally signed for a non-guaranteed amount of approximately $800,000. (That money was guaranteed on Tuesday.)
On December 9, sixteen days before the NBA season had even began, the Warriors cut Jeremy Lin for cap reasons. Just two days later, the Houston Rockets picked him up off waivers. His role was to backup Kyle Lowry, who unfortunately and also somewhat ironically just went down with a hyperextended elbow injury last night. The day the season started for the Knicks – December 25 – the Rockets waived Lin to make space for Samuel Dalembert.
By December 27, the Knicks claimed Lin off waivers. I would like to think that my reasoning at the time was somewhat rationale. I argued that Lin was not a long term solution, nothing to get excited about, and not “likely to be the Knicks point guard in April or May…” In the original post, I noted how Lin’s game revolved around “the pick and roll and quality defense”. I should have known then that he had the chance to blossom in a run and gun system. Like many others, I ignored the somewhat obvious signs.
(For the record, the audience on that post was extraordinarily critical. Looking back, rightfully so.)
Starting on December 28, Jeremy Lin consistently played during the end of games, always when the outcome had already been decided.
Those who blame Mike D’Antoni for not playing Lin from the get-go need to analyze Lin’s first five games as a Knick, when he did get play, just failed to show his full repertoire. Lin’s most infamous games came against the Kings, when he played just 3:51 and picked up four fouls and two turnovers.
On January 17, the Knicks assigned Lin down to their D-League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks. In one game with the BayHawks, Lin posted a triple double – 28 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds.
On January 23, Baron Davis, then lauded as the Knicks’ savior, returned to practice. It appeared as if the season rested on the veteran’s shoulders. The same day, Jeremy Lin was recalled from the BayHawks and joined the Knicks.
From January 24 to February 3, Lin played in four separate games, combining for a total of 38:47, 23 points, 15 assists, and two steals. Most of that was in garbage time. He played over 20 minutes only against the Rockets, finishing with nine points and six assists.
However on February 4, Lin got the chance to show his hand due to Knicks injuries and lack of success from other “point guards”. This resulted in Lin’s first stellar performance, which occurred against Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets. By this time, Baron Davis had already reached another setback. Lin finished with 25 points and seven assists, combined with just one turnover in 35:52 of play.
On February 6, he dominated the Utah Jazz to the tune of 28 points and eight assists. He played every minute of the second half, missing just three minutes and eight seconds from the game entirely. Seven of his eight turnovers came in the second half as well, where he likely felt fatigue and tiredness.
On February 8, with expectations mounted, Lin did not stop rolling. Against John Wall, the Harvard point guard scored 23 points and dished 10 assists. He became the first player since LeBron James to score more than 22 points and dish eight assists in his first two career starts.
The most amazing thing, to me at least, is that all three games have resulted in wins, even without the help of superstars Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony in two of them.
And now it’s February 9. The toughest part from here on out will be sustaining his level of productivity. Onward and upward for Jeremy Lin.
So why has Lin been so successful? I posed some variation of this question on Twitter last night and got some really good responses. Credit is listed in parenthesis.
- D’Antoni and His System. Many are scared to give him credit, but it is under his system where Lin is succeeding. The running and gunning and the seven seconds or less and the offense actually work. I think that shocks some people. Lin could arguably be the best point guard D’Antoni has coached in his tenure in New York. While he hasn’t had a talented bunch, it does say something about Lin. (@ConnorHuchton, @jombi89)
- Previous Point Guards. The point guards that have ran the show this season for D’Antoni – Douglas, Shumpert, Bibby, Melo – have done a horrendous job. They don’t do the things that Lin has a natural tendency to do. This has helped New York and its fans to praise Lin for being the point guard that can save this team. (@Shlish)
- Skills. A few brought up his inherent basketball skills – like the way he gets to the basket with ease, how he finishes through contact, finds the open man, avoids turnovers, has a natural defensive prowess, and knows the right decisions to make off the pick and roll. (@Blumonkeebiz, @TheCfaithful, @Citizen_Insane_)
Have another reason you think Lin has been as good as he has? Post it in the comments.
The truth is that the newest member of the New York Knicks, Jeremy Lin, has shown flashes of excellence throughout his college career, the 2010 NBA Summer League, and with his brief stint with Golden State Warriors, but the 23 year old point guard played in just 29 games last season and failed to accumulate 100 total points. That shouldn’t and doesn’t define him as a player; his game is more focused on the pick and roll and quality defense (Lin tallied a steal in all but seven of his games last season.)
Now, ironically enough, Lin might see his first action in a Knicks uniform against a depleted Golden State backcourt, where Stephen Curry may sit out. Granted, its unlikely New York’s first Asian American product since Wat Misaka (in 1947) gets a lot of burn before even completing a couple of practices with the team.
The reason though that Jeremy Lin isn’t likely to be the Knicks point guard in April or May is because of the unexpected depth they already have at the point guard position. Mike Bibby, Iman Shumpert (expected to return in 2-4 weeks), Baron Davis, Toney Douglas, and Carmelo Anthony are all ahead of Lin on the depth chart as point guards. One is a hybrid point-forward and can’t be expected to defend point guards well (Melo), one is really shooting guard being forced to play point guard (Douglas). Three others are “banged up” (Bibby, Shumpert, and Davis).
So that makes the claiming of Lin on the waiver wire a smart move. Will it be a move made for the long term? Probably not. But was it a move the Knicks needed to make in order to put a decent roster in the backcourt? Definitely.
It’s important to keep expectations in check for Lin’s arrival to Knicks nation. He went undrafted. He was not supposed to do anything in the NBA. He just wanted a chance to play for an NBA team. What better way to do it than to play with two, possibly three, All-Stars in Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler.
With that being said, there is a good chance Lin’s skills work well in Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system, where there is a heavy reliance on picking, rolling, running, and gunning.
The addition of Lin maxes out the Knicks roster at 15, but have no fear, the mini mid-level exception the Knicks can still offer is not in jeopardy. The team can always cut him or possibly even send him down to the D-League.