Nash jumps on the Lin bandwagon as Linsanity continues to spread
SACRAMENTO -- As Steve Nash sees it, Jeremy Lin's incredible path from the bench to breakout star is a good, old-fashioned sports story: an underdog athlete playing well, sparking excitement and leading a struggling franchise to victories. It's not, as some have surmised, a story of Nash's old coach, the Knicks' Mike D'Antoni, finally finding a Nash-esque point guard to plug into an offensive system that is making this mania happen.
No one has more affection for D'Antoni than Nash -- the two orchestrated one of the most potent offenses in league history from 2004 to 2008 -- but he said the credit in this case should go to the player himself.
"Every team in the league runs pick-and-rolls, so I don't see why you would discredit what he's done or qualify it," Nash said of Lin, who is averaging 26.8 points and eight assists during New York's five-game winning streak. "I think he's been outstanding regardless."
Nash jumped on the Lin bandwagon on Wednesday, tweeting, "If you love sports, you have to love what Jeremy Lin is doing. Getting an opportunity and exploding!!" to his list of followers more than 785,000 long. In one sign of how Lin's accomplishments are drawing major global interest, Nash's comment was retweeted more than 6,000 times.
As everyone from casual fans to NBA talent evaluators have analyzed the "Linsanity" -- which reached a high point Friday when the undrafted second-year player from Harvard dropped 38 points in a home victory against the Lakers -- presents a natural tendency to compare him to Nash because of the D'Antoni connection. But Lin, the first American-born NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent, is showcasing a distinct style in which he looks to score more often than the pass-first Nash. The recent absences of Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire are giving Lin the necessary freedom to freelance as well.
"I probably don't look to finish as much as I once did, but he's a terrific finisher," Nash said. "It helps that Amar'e and Melo are out and everything is going through him, and you've got to try to create opportunities on pick-and-rolls and get penetration. That's helping, but you've still got to put the ball in the basket. He's making shots. He's getting to the basket and finishing, and getting to the line."
The irony here is that the Knicks spent recent years wishing they could have Nash in the role Lin is now filling so well. But while the Knicks have been interested in trading for Nash, the Suns have always been unwilling to part ways with their wildly popular franchise player. As one fan told Nash on Twitter, he could still sign with the Knicks as a free agent this summer and play the point-guard part of Obi-Wan to Lin's Luke Skywalker. "Complete his training," the fan begged him.
That is, of course, if Lin is still with the Knicks next season. He will be a restricted free agent this summer, meaning the Knicks will be able to match any offer from another team. It's one of the many questions that Lin will be glad to answer with the help of his agent, Roger Montgomery, and it's hardly the most pressing one at the moment.
Montgomery is feeling the ripple effect of Lin's rise more than anyone, never mind that he's nowhere near the action in New York. The San Antonio-based agent, who has been in the business for 11 years, runs what he calls "a boutique shop" of an outfit, monitoring his four clients from his Texas office, his sudden home away from home.
Montgomery hasn't had a full night's sleep for "about five days now," he said, with interviews requests for Lin pouring in from all over the world and business opportunities booming. David Letterman has reached out, Montgomery said, as has Diane Sawyer and "90 percent of the major media personalities" (no Jay Leno yet, however). Meanwhile, Lin is in the second year of a three-year shoe contract with Nike, and Montgomery admitted that a renegotiation of terms could be in order if Lin keeps playing like this. Montgomery is heading to New York this week, where he'll sit down with Lin to make a few calculated decisions about where to spend his time in an attempt to maximize this newfound fame while remaining focused on the game.
"My situation mirrors his in the sense that it's been really overwhelming," said Montgomery, who also represents Wizards guard Maurice Evans and two players playing overseas in NBA veteran Sonny Weems and former Illinois point guard Demetri McCamey. "There's been an overwhelming amount of calls and interest -- not just in the U.S. but China. All over the world, people are excited about Jeremy Lin."
And the credit, as Nash and Montgomery would both agree, should be going to Lin.
"The guy is playing great basketball," Nash said. "It's an awesome story and it's a lot of fun to watch."