Lin showcases playmaking ability
NEW YORK -- In less than two weeks time, Jeremy Lin has altered the stock market, shattered stereotypes and commanded the attention of the leader of the free world. That he has also energized Madison Square Garden, made the Knicks the center of the sports universe for the first time in more than a decade and lifted them back to .500 seems almost insignificant by comparison. But bubbling below the surface during this fortnight of Linsanity -- beneath the screaming back-page headlines and the swelling love affair with the city of New York -- has always been a sense that it was somehow temporary, that an undrafted Ivy Leaguer who had been cut twice this season alone could not possibly sustain a level of play that had him outdueling the likes of Deron Williams and Kobe Bryant.
Sure enough, on Wednesday night Lin had what was in many ways his least statistically impressive game since moving into the starting lineup earlier this month. His 10 points were more than 16 below his average since he erupted for 25 coming off the bench against the Nets on Feb. 4. His six shot attempts were by far his fewest in that time, as were his 27 minutes, while his six turnovers were one more than he'd been averaging during that span.
No, this game does not go in the Lin pantheon. It goes somewhere more important: the win column. For in New York's 100-85 victory over Sacramento, Lin still managed to provide in the Knicks' seventh straight victory a performance that was almost as impactful, albeit in a different way, as any in the six scintillating games that preceded it. From the opening possession against the Kings, when he threw an alley-oop to Tyson Chandler that resulted in a foul (but no basket), Lin showed that he could be just as aggressive, and just as in control, with his passing as he had been with his scoring. Before the period was over he had connected on successful lobs with Landry Fields and Chandler and drove to the hoop to drop a perfect pass to Amar'e Stoudemire for yet another jam.
In the second quarter, with Sacramento hanging around, down just 38-30 and the crowd snoozing, Lin stirred them to their feet with another alley-oop, this time to Chandler off a pick-and-roll. The Kings would get no closer, though the new Prince of New York was not quite done putting on his Magic act.
First, he teamed up with Fields for another soaring lob dunk off a backdoor cut. Then, on the Knicks last possession of the half, he dribbled alone at the top of the key, just as he had at the end of Tuesday's game in Toronto while the crowd came to its feet. In that game, he had waved off a potential ball screen, pulled up and drained the game-winning three-pointer that would take his growing legend to new heights and be replayed endlessly Wednesday (though Lin claimed to only catch it once; "We had another game today," he explained). This time, he used a screen from Stoudemire, penetrated down the left side of the lane, drew another defender and dropped the ball to a wide-open Chandler for another dunk and an 18-point halftime lead.
The second half was a mere formality. Two pretty bounce passes for easy hoops in the third quarter helped bring Lin's assist total to a career-high 13, and before the period was complete, the game was all but over and so -- despite the fourth-quarter chants of "We Want Lin" from the adoring sellout crowd -- was Lin's evening.
Afterward, Lin called his turnovers "sky high" and said of averaging nearly 20 field goal attempts a game, "I don't think that's a good thing." On Wednesday he looked like the consummate point guard he'll need to be once Carmelo Anthony (and his 18 shots per game) is back in the lineup, which could come as soon as Friday against the Hornets. Twelve of his 13 assists were handed out to his fellow starters and in balanced fashion: two for Stoudemire, three for Chandler and Bill Walker and four for Fields.
Lin credits the connection with Fields to their time spent back in Palo Alto, Calif., where Lin -- a Palo Alto native who'd gone unrecruited by Stanford despite playing high school ball across the street -- would join Fields and his Cardinal teammates for pickup games. Their bond was only strengthened when Lin arrived in New York just days after being dumped by the Rockets on Christmas Eve. The two went out to dinner on Lin's first night with the team and when Lin was temporarily evicted from the now famous couch on which he'd been sleeping in his brother's apartment, he went to crash at Fields' place.
It is fair to say that no such chemistry exists with Anthony, who last played against Utah on Feb. 6, which was Lin's first start. In that game, Anthony played less than six minutes (he shot 3-for-15 in 35 minutes in Lin's breakout game against the Nets) and in the time since, Lin has become the man through whom New York's up-tempo offense flows.
It has become clear that for the Knicks to continue their climb in the Eastern Conference that must continue to be the case. Lin brushed aside the growing concern that he and Anthony -- whom he twice referred to as a "lethal scorer" -- would not be able to coexist comfortably on the court, predicting that the Knicks would be "more dangerous offensively" once their All-Star swingman becomes his newest running mate.
"Whatever we need him to do, I think he'll do it," said Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni of his point guard. Added Bill Walker of a potential problem incorporating Anthony into the Knicks Lin-stant offense, "You guys have to write something. We don't expect [Lin] to average 30 and 10 every night. We need a spark and he's done that. He's given us new life."
Lin's life off the court is just as new. He has been credited with boosting the stock market of MSG Entertainment by more than 10 percent. He has become as big a phenomenon in China and Taiwan, his parents' homeland, as he is in his native U.S. Even President Obama has taken notice, according to his press secretary. Told that the hoopster-in-chief was an admirer, Lin could only mutter, "Wow, the president. Nothing better than that."
If Lin has proved anything during the past two weeks it's this: When it comes to his game and his fame, it seems there is always something even more incredible yet to come.