The Knicks Missing Lin’k
Is Jeremy Lin better than a healthy Baron Davis?
by DJ Dunson / @dunsonchecksin
In storytelling, a red herring is a major clue or plot point that purposely leads an audience in the wrong direction. For the past month and a half, the Knicks have followed a red herring at point guard.
For more than two years, the Knicks have hoped a number of superstars would guide their franchise back to relevancy. Ultimately, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler have led the Knicks back into the spotlight, but haven’t had much luck in the win department.
Much of the Knicks’ woes have been attributed to the offense’s lack of a true point guard. Instead, Coach Mike D’Antoni was forced to resort to ball-stopping scorer Anthony as the team’s point forward. In an offense predicated on ball movement and wizardry at point guard, the Knicks have appeared subpar this season on both sides of the ball.
Veteran point guard Baron Davis was signed prior to the season. At the time of his signing Anthony called him one of the best when healthy. But he has yet to log a single minute this season because of a nagging back injury. As the Knicks floundered to a 7-15 start without him, Davis was billed as the Knicks’ savior.
Enter Harvard grad, Jeremy Lin. It’s been a great year for Harvard. The jobless numbers are improving under President Obama, Bills’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick signed a $59 million extension in October, and the 20-2 Harvard Crimson are ranked 21st in the nation. Then, on Saturday night, Lin exploded for 25 points and 7 assists in a career high 36 minutes of action, including 12 fourth-quarter points.
Most importantly, Lin outscored Nets PG Deron Williams, commanded the Knicks’ offense like a true point guard, and led the Knicks to a 99-92 victory. It didn’t hurt that he became the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter. Spike Lee raved so effusively about him that it wouldn’t be shocking if he changed the title of his upcoming sequel for 2006’s The Inside Man to The Lin-side Man.
On Monday night, the New York media was no longer distracted by the Giants’ march to the Super Bowl. Stoudemire left the team after the death of his brother, and Carmelo suffered a groin injury in the first quarter. Before the game, Davis also suffered another setback in his recovery that will keep him out until the All-Star break. All eyes were on Lin.
Lin responded by putting up 28 points and 8 assists against the Utah Jazz in his first start. On consecutive first half possessions, Lin paused for Chandler to set a pick before accelerating toward the basket and finding Chandler near the hoop for an easy basket. For the second consecutive game, Madison Square Garden showered Lin with chants of “M-V-P.” Lin’s quick first step, zigzagging penetration moves and craft reverse layups have become signature plays.
For Lin, his ascendance began three weeks ago when he was assigned to the D-League’s Erie Bayhawks. In just one night, Lin posted 28 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds and was immediately re-assigned to the Knicks’ roster. After last Tuesday’s win over the Pistons, Lin was lauded for his execution of the pick and roll and promised more playing time to Lin. Lin didn’t see the floor against Chicago and only played seven minutes against the Celtics.
A week ago, the hour hand on the doomsday clock for D’Antoni’s job was pointing firmly at 11 and rocking toward midnight. Lin’s emergence has provided a sigh of relief and given the Knicks a chance to recover until Baron Davis can play. Despite Lin’s performances, Davis is still being hyped as the potential savior and the Knicks Mr. Fix It. But would a healthy Baron Davis give the Knicks a better product on the floor than Lin?
Davis is a 32-year-old scoring point guard that relied on his athleticism in his prime. Last season with the Clippers and Cavaliers, Davis averaged only 13.1 points and 6.7 assists per game. The Knicks have enough athletes and scorers to go around. Davis is still busy with setting up his post-basketball life in television and film. What they need is a hungry quarterback of the offense who has the vision and basketball IQ to run D’Antoni’s sets, distribute the rock and score when necessary.
D’Antoni has made a number of questionable decisions this season. Lin will have moments when he’ll struggle, but D’Antoni can’t impulsively send him back to the bench as he did last week. Lin is not a stop-gap. He’s the point guard the Knicks have been searching for. Davis is the red herring they’ve been stuck on.
Since Lin’s emergence Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” has blared throughout the arena. What Knicks fans should be listening too are taking notes from a few J. Cole closing lyrics.
So check the young genius out
I thought that real sh-t is what you been fiending ’bout
What you been praying for? What you been screaming ’bout?
Ironic you been sleeping on the one that you been dreaming ’bout
With any luck, the Knicks have caught onto what they have in Lin and keep starting him before the credits roll early on D’Antoni and their season.