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Knicks: Leave Jeremy Lin Alone

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Jeremy Lin is rapidly recovering from knee surgery, but the Knicks shouldn’t risk further injury.

Knicks: Leave Jeremy Lin Alone

The last week has not been kind to the New York Knicks.  They were blown out of the water in their Playoff opener against the Miami Heat, losing 100-67 and also losing their best perimeter Iman Shumpert to a torn ACL.  The second game was more competitive, but the Knicks still lost 104-94.  After the game, forward Amar'e Stoudemire punched/struck/slapped a fire extinguisher cabinet, severely injuring his hand and jeopardizing his status for the remainder of the series.  What was once a team with surprising depth was now without three of its main contributors (Shumpert, Stoudemire, and Jeremy Lin) and looking very thin.  The Knicks were in need of some good news.

Well, Tyson Chandler was named Defensive Player of the Year today, which certainly qualifies as good news.  By that same token, Jeremy Lin participating in 3-on-3 drills against the likes of Mike Bibby today also has to be put in that category.  Here's what Jared Zwerling reported at practice:

Despite Lin taking contact and making some aggressive moves to the basket, Mike Woodson said Lin will not play in Game 3 on Thursday night at the Garden. He's not sure if Lin will play at all in the team's first-round playoff series against the Heat.

Woodson said he and the team's medical staff will meet together on Thursday to further evaluate Lin and determine his status looking ahead. While Lin has gradually increased his workload through his recovery process, Woodson said he has to show he can handle making offensive and defensive moves consistently.

"This is the first time he's been able to run up and down," Woodson said. "He's gone through a lot of drills. The test is if he can cut and guard people and be able to handle the ball and make plays off the dribble."

Knicks fans should be rejoicing that Linsanity is almost back, right?  I'm obviously happy that Lin is recovering, but "further evaluate" makes me apprehensive and thinking that the Knicks might be ready to rush Lin back.  Knicks fans, thrown into desperation mode with the injuries and the deficit, want to see Lin return against Miami.  That, to me is a risk not worth taking.

Lin had surgery on his knee in early April, and he wasn't slated to return until the second round of the playoffs at the earliest.  That still felt like a generous timetable given the injury, and I just figured that Lin would be shut down.  What good would it really do to reintroduce him to the roster during the most pressurized and intense part of the season?  He would be rusty, not entirely in sync with his teammates during a period where there isn't much time to make adjustments, and playing against the best competition.  And that was supposed to be for a hypothetical round two opponent.

Now, we're talking about bringing him back against the Miami Heat, the same Heat that have swarmed the Knicks from the get-go this series.  Let's also refer back to Lin's only game of the season against the Miami Heat, that much ballyhooed matchup before the All-Star Break.  Mario Chalmers and the Heat defense suffocated Lin.  He shot just 1-11 from the field, dished out just three assists, and turned the ball over eight times.  The Knicks lost, and it was Lin's worst performance of the season.  Lin did that while fully healthy (at least his legs) and at the height of his "Linsanity" powers.  Now we're asking him to come back sooner than expected on a surgically repaired knee and do better than that in the playoffs?  Yes it was a small sample size, but no other NBA team forced Lin into such an awful overall performance. Playing Lin would be like throwing him to the wolves.

To me, the real question is this: Is bringing Lin back in this series worth it?  My answer is no.  Bringing Lin back doesn't give New York a better chance of winning the series.  Maybe they win a game with him, but four out of five?  That's highly unlikely.  Yes, everything about Lin's rise this season has been highly unlikely, but this is playoff basketball.  We've seen how physical this series has been already.  Combine the extra physicality with Lin's already reckless playing style and you get a high probability or re-injury.  I can't say whether or not Lin would be effective, but I know this.  All the rehabbing, working out, and practice drills in the world can't prepare Lin for the rigors of playoff basketball.  If he couldn't handle Miami in the regular season while healthy, asking him to do the same thing in the postseason on a recovering knee is a tall order.

Speaking as a Knicks fan, I obviously don't want the Knicks to get swept for the third straight playoff series.  I desperately don't want to get swept by the Miami Heat.  But is rushing Lin back worth not getting swept?  Is jeopardizing your 23-year-old's health worth a win?  Not for me.  Leave Jeremy on the bench, Knicks.  We want him ready for next season, or if we're lucky, next series.

Let CHARGED.fm get you tickets to see the New York Knicks take on the Miami Heat tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden.

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