By Dennis Berry
There is a new sports craze going across the country affecting basketball fans. It is an out of now infection that comes after you watch the New York Knicks play. If you watch the Knicks' new starting point guard, Jeremy Lin, it is easy to catch.
I had only heard of this through watching SportsCenter. Then Friday night I was exposed to the full force of the craze as Lin led the New York Knicks to a win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Now you can count me as one of the infected.
Lin proved himself against the Lakers and Kobe Bryant. He scored 37 points and was clutch in the fourth quarter as the Knicks beat Lakers 92-85. Madison Square Garden was rocking.
It has been that way since Lin has taken over the point guard duties for the Knicks. He has played meaningful minutes in the last five games, starting the last four. The Knicks are 5-0 in those games.
During this stretch Lin has averaged 26.8 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals a game. He is averaging 39 minutes and shooting 52% from the field.
His 109 points are the most points scored by a player in their first four starts since the NBA/ABA merger. Lin has scored more points than Allen Iverson, Shaquille O'Neil, and Michael Jordan scored in their first four starts.
Yeah, let that sink in. Lin, an undrafted player from Havard, has scored more points then three of the NBA's all-time best. That is not saying Lin is the next great player, just a crazy stat.
Of course this run by Lin and the Knicks is crazy. They are winning without Carmelo Anthony (injury) or Amar'e Stoudemire, who rejoined the Knicks Monday after missing the last four games because of his brother's death. Another testament to the affect Lin has had on the Knicks
Before Lin became a factor the Knicks were struggling. After a 91-89 loss to the Celtics on February 3, the Knicks were 8-15. They were considered one of the NBA's disappointments given the star power of Anthony and Stoudemire.
Now the Knicks are playing team basketball. Since Lin took over at point guard, the Knicks look completely different on offense. There is no more standing around and waiting for someone to create their own shot. Players are moving without the ball and even sharing the basketball.
A point guard is what Head Coach Mike D'Antoni has been missing this year. The Knicks have one of the best front lines in the NBA with Anthony, Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler, but were missing a point guard to run the offense and distribute the ball. Lin can execute the pick ‘n roll and create shots for other players, both big needs in D'Antoni's offense.
The true test of Lin's abilities will be when Stoudemire and Anthony are both back in the lineup. Stoudemire is back and should play Tuesday night at Toronto. With Stoudemire back on the court, D'Antoni and New York fans should be giddy with the thought of Lin and Stoudemire in the pick n' roll. Stoudemire had great success in Phoenix in this offense with Steve Nash at the point, and many figure the same results when he gets paired with Lin.
Anthony could be back by the end of this week, but may have the biggest effect on the offense. On one hand, Anthony has to like the idea of having a point guard that can distribute the ball between him and Stoudemire.
On the other hand, Anthony is used to having the ball in his hands and creating his shots one on one. He has not always been the best at creating shots for others. That is the way the Knicks are playing now, not being selfish and working as a team to win.
Before this season started, I picked the Knicks to be NBA title contenders in the East. I wish I could say I saw this coming, though I cannot. At the end of January the Knicks were 8-13 and appeared to be headed nowhere.
Then "Linsanity" struck and the Knicks won. If Stoudemire and Anthony are willing to accept Lin as their point guard and play within D'Antoni's system, the Knicks might make my pick look good.
Perhaps D'Antoni said it best after the Knicks beat the Lakers Friday night.
"I don't know what to tell you, I have never seen this. What he's doing is amazing."