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The Jeremy Lin Experience

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

The Knicks have found their point guard in… Jeremy Lin? I took in his first start live, and here are my thoughts.

The Jeremy Lin Experience

Monday afternoon, I was offered a ticket to see the New York Knicks play the Utah Jazz at Madison Square Garden.  It took me all of one second to respond "YES OH MY GOD YES I WANT TO GO!"  Why was I that excited to go watch a team that was 9-15? 

Jeremy Lin was starting at point guard.

I missed Lin's breakout 25-point, 7-assist game against the New Jersey Nets on Saturday evening, but I heard tales and legends of its brilliance.  He played outplayed Deron Williams on both sides of the court.  He was getting to the lane at will.  He found Knicks on the pick-and-roll.  He made Mike Breen reach decibels normally reserved for playoff telecasts.  He inspired several Lin puns (Linsanity, Linning, Lin Dynasty, and I would have thrown in Captain Linsano).  And then I watched this video, made by the fine folks at Oakley & Allen, and I knew I had to get the MSG and see this kid for myself.

The Daily feat. Jeremy Lin from Oakley & Allen on Vimeo.

Outside the Garden, the excitement for Lin was already palpable.  Fans walked up to each other saying, "Jeremy Lin, dude!"  Jeremy Lin jerseys were on full display at every shop inside.  The crowd roared every time his name was mentioned.  He probably received a bigger ovation than Carmelo Anthony during introductions.

Early on it seemed like the Knicks had everything going wrong.  Amar'e Stoudemire was in Florida after the death of his older brother.  Anthony left the game just six minutes in after straining a groin.  Tyson Chandler picked up two quick fouls and then a third later in the second quarter.  The squad on the floor resembled a D-League team, but they somehow escaped the first quarter with the lead.  Then Lin took the game into his hands.

Lin got into the lane and scored a reverse layup.  He assisted Chandler on two consecutive PnR's, one off a steal.  He drove and got an and-one on Enes Kanter, sending the crowd to its feet.  He found Steve Novak for an open three off a steal.  He effortlessly split a double team and streaked to the hoop for an open layup.  He got Jared Jeffries an easy bucket down low.  He drove and somehow got a pass to Novak waiting in the corner for another open three.  The Lin-led offense exploded for 32 points in the quarter and jumped out to a 13-point lead.  It was beautiful to watch Lin use patience, aggressiveness, and creativity to get himself and his teammates good looks.  And he wasn't even close to finished.

Lin continued to make plays in the second half as the Jazz made their eventual run and kept the game close.  He kept finishing at the rim for and-ones, some of which were so improbable I just screamed "WHAT?" over and over after he scored.  He kept the intensity up on defense.  Each play he made drove the crowd even wilder.  But more importantly it kept the Knicks out in front.  He kept his poise while the raucous fans chanted "M-V-P" and went about his business. 

The cherry on top came with two minutes left in the game and the Knicks up by six.  Iman Shumpert drove and air-balled a short jumper with the shot clock expiring.  Chandler tipped the ball backwards to an open Lin waiting at the three-point line.  He released the ball just as the horn blew and drilled the dagger three.  The lid blew off Madison Square Garden as every single fan lost his or her mind.  He backed down the court nodding his head, then grinning wildly and sticking his tongue out.  The kid just emanates infinite swag.

Lin played 45 of 48 minutes and finished the night with 28 points on 10-17 shooting, 8 assists, 2 steals, and 8 turnovers (due in large part to overly aggressive Devin Harris defense and a few bad decisions on the PnR).  His second consecutive outburst got the Internets buzzing and prompted everyone to write about this kid out of Harvard who just led the Knicks to two straight wins.  Here's what Zach Lowe had to say over at SI.com:

Lin has played 80 mostly dazzling minutes over New York’s last two games — home victories against New Jersey and Utah. Those 80 minutes are more than he received all season before Saturday’s game against the Nets. Those 80 minutes make up nearly one-third of the time the Warriors gave him last season before dumping him to free up salary space in a failed pursuit of the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan. They represent 80 more minutes than the Rockets, one of the league’s savviest franchises, gave Lin before waiving him on Christmas Eve.

And in those 80 minutes, Lin has scored 53 points, dished out 15 assists and led the Knicks to back-to-back wins in which they scored at a points-per-possession rate above the league average. New York had accomplished that feat in back-to-back games just once before “Lin-sanity” set in. He has attempted 9.3 free throws per 36 minutes as a Knick, a mark that would rank behind only LeBron James and Dwight Howard if Lin had enough minutes to qualify for such leaderboards. He has assisted on 47.2 percent of New York’s baskets while on the floor, trailing only Steve Nash.

This is outrageous, and outrageously fun. But Lin-sanity isn’t going to last, at least not at this efficiency level and in this volume of minutes. Carmelo Anthony and Davis will get healthy; Amar’e Stoudemire, going through a horrific family tragedy, will be back; and the opposition will get better.

Emma Carmichael had this to say at Deadspin about the shocking development of an Asian-American Harvard male succeeding in New York City:

There is a legitimate argument to be made, though, that Jeremy Lin is exactly what no Knick fan wants to call him: A very good and possibly long-term team point guard. Apologies for the possible jinx, New York, but it's true. Lin's game matured at Harvard under Tommy Amaker, a former Duke guard. Amaker, like Mike D'Antoni, ran a go-ahead offense that depended heavily on its skilled guard, Lin.

Lin, in turn, developed an aggressive driving game that fed as much off of his ability to finish in the paint as it did his ability—and willingness—to dish. In his senior year, Lin took just 19 percent of the team's shots and still led the team in scoring. Amaker also demands quality, half-court defense from his players at Harvard, which is the surest and quickest way for any new Knick to curry favor with D'Antoni, and Lin's proven quick enough to stay in front of most of the league's best guards.

And have you seen him and Tyson Chandler run a pick and roll?

A popular point is that Lin has to regress and can't possibly keep this up.  If he can just do this for 15 minutes a game, the Knicks and their fans will be thrilled.  But can we truly know what he will regress to?  Lin played in just 29 games during his rookie year with the Golden State Warriors and averaged just over nine minutes a game.  Is that enough time for us to properly assess his ceiling and his basement?

Here's what I saw.  I saw a point guard that had great instincts.  He knows how to run a pick-and-roll, which is a crucial skill to have for the sole purpose of weening the Knicks off isolation ball.  He is fearless attacking defenders at the rim and double teams on the perimeter, which will result in turnovers on occasion.  He doesn't have the greatest jump shot, but it's good enough to keep defenders honest when defending the pick-and-roll.  Sometimes he over-dribbles, but he won't pick up his dribble in the lane and is always keeping the play going.  He's an incredible finisher and creator at the rim.  He's incredibly active on defense and will resist the urge to switch on picks, something that has plagued the Knicks defense this season.  And I'm pretty sure I already mentioned the infinite swag he emanates.

I'm not ready to write off Jeremy Lin as just a flash in the pan.  I don't think Lin will continue to keep producing at this extremely high level, but I also don't think it's absurd to believe he can't come close to this kind of production.  He filled up the stat sheet during garbage time enough to tell me he would probably do the same in extended minutes.  I seem to recall another undrafted free agent who took New York City by storm recently.  His name was Victor Cruz.  He only finished the year with over 1,500 yards receiving and just won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants.  Not every story ends quite that way, but the Knicks may have found their Victor Cruz, and at just the right time too.

As I walked out of the Garden, I heard one fan say to another, "We might have something with this kid man.  He might be a diamond in the rough!"  I think he's right.  Lin had just engineered another Knicks victory where the top four scorers were Lin, Steve Novak, Jared Jeffries, and Bill Walker.  Imagine what he can do with Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and Tyson Chandler once they are all on the court together.  I think the results will be pretty Linsane.

Let CHARGED.fm get you tickets to see Jeremy Lin and the Knicks take on the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night.

Comments (1)
  1. Chao Chen's profile

    Chao Chen

    February 8th, 2012 @10:58


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