Nick: For the first time since they reeled off four in a row to go to 6-4, the Knicks can lay claim to a “winning streak,” grabbing two straight at home against the New Jersey Nets and Utah Jazz. I’m pretty sure that’s why they had a parade through Manhattan on Tuesday.
The linchpin (foreshadowing!) to this modest (I’m sure Mike will choose some hyperbolic adjective) run of W’s has been surprising: not Amar’e (out Monday for personal reasons), not Melo (a strained groin limited him to six minutes), not Baron Davis (he’s the short fat guy with a neck beard earning $2.5 million to literally “suit” up – shirt, tie, and everything).
No, the key has been the one, the only….Jeremy Lin!
Mike: I have to correct you, Davis is also earning many more millions from the Cav’s to sit on another team’s bench. But go on.
Nick: That’s right, Harvard’s finest has been the high scorer for the Knicks in each of these two wins (or shall I say Lins?). He poured in 25 points against the Nets in 36 (!) minutes (Linutes!) off the bench, then followed up that performance by exploding for a career high 28 points in his first ever start and 45 (!!!) more Linutes of playing time. Those 53 points represent almost half of all the points the second-year player had scored in 38 previous games. And this comes after getting sent down to the D-League for a chunk of time this season.
So WTF gives? Do I really have to take Lin seriously? Should Harvard graduates even be allowed to play professional sports (yeah, I’m talking to you, Ryan Pickspatrick*)?
*Trademark Dave Jacoby
Mike: While I’m thrilled that Lin is dropping buckets on opponents (even ones with winning records), I’m more excited that he’s playing to the strengths of the D’Antoni system. He attacks the basket off the pick-and-roll. To boot, he’s not an inept shooter, so he actually draws defenders and opens up shots for big guys down low and even Steve Novak was knocking down three’s against the Jazz.
I’ll give the Harvard boy one undeniable thing, though: he put the Knicks on his shoulders and led them to two needed wins. But when Melo and Amar’e return, I don’t know if they’ll allow him to keep the Knicks on his shoulders. They like to be heroes themselves. That being said, Lin could work well with them if their ball-hogging ways can make up for Lin’s tendency to turn over the ball (28%).
The question that remains for Mike D’Antoni now is how to make use of Lin when Amar’e and Melo return. Lin has made D’Antoni’s offense into… well… an offense. But he’s done that with mostly bench players. Does that mean that Lin should lead the bench squad only? Will he have the same effectiveness with the full starting line-up?
Nick: Well, don’t worry, Melo’s out for the next month or two with that strained groin. But when that decision eventually has to be made, I don’t think he should only lead the bench squad. Maybe you can get away with it because he won’t have he ball in his hands nearly as much once your primary
ball-handlers ball-stoppers return, so you stick him with the second unit to be the sparkplug off the bench. But D’Antoni’s system has always relied on a point guard to be successful, and clearly the point forward experiment with Melo has failed completely. Give the reins to Lin and see what he can do, I say.
But that then begs the question: Can you really count on Lin to become the understudy who takes over Baron Davis’s starring role as Salvation-Bearing Point Guard?
Mike: He’s brought back some hope to New Yorkers. But there’s a reason he’s been to the D-League and had only 32 total points before pretty much tripling his scoring output in the span of two games. He still hasn’t taken Davis’ place as Knickerbocker Christ.
Not yet, anyway. But if he does, this city will undoubtedly devolve into pure Linsanity.