What’s Most Important
Can Jeremy Lin help the Knicks become Playoff threats?
by Cub Buenning / @cubbuenning
Jeremy Lin is a phenomenon to many basketball fans around the world. He has gone from Ivy League bookworm to NBA cast-off to Sports Illustrated cover boy in just a matter of days. The critical New York market has embraced him—by both the media and the starving fan base alike. Lin even has won over the hearts in Bristol, as he has become the “flavor of the day” for the Worldwide Leader. He is the focus of SportsCenter, a top topic on the network’s afternoon talk programs and even an option on their online polls of the League’s best point guard (one curiously did not include Russell Westbrook or Deron Williams).
But, for all of the excitement, delight and hasty lunacy that Linsanity has brought to Gotham, his last week’s highlight package is not what’s most important.
His high-scoring antics, his drives to the cup and his Harvard pedigree are not what is most important.
Him representing an entire a culture that has largely been unrepresented in our domestic league does not depict what is most important.
The fact that Lin was a lightly recruited prep player out of the Bay Area who went un-drafted from the athletically challenged university that has produced eight US Presidents isn’t all that impressive.
Hell, stringing together wins for an injury-riddled team isn’t even what is most important about the story of Jeremy Lin.
What is most important is that this New York Knicks team that was constructed around the high-scoring talents of Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony finally has a floor leader.
The Knicks have finally found their point guard.
This season, millions of Knicks observers have tried to find the answer at the League’s newest chic position. With the likes of Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Westbrook and Williams changing the landscape of the NBA point guard, the Knicks have scuffled between the Chris Duhons and Toney Douglases of the world. Chauncey Billups provided a small bit of stability during his brief tenure at MSG, but his late in his career/large contract made a long-term stay, an impossibility.
Iman Shumpert had become the temporary (big) “apple of many eyes.” Fans had begun talking at length about his progression and the fact that he could become the oversized, offensively aggressive point guard of the future. Shump had become a Twitter presence, if only for the hope and promise held by so many in the hoops-crazed metropolis. But his transformation into an NBA point guard was still much a work in progress, as he struggled to find consistency among his bouts of brilliance.
An injured Baron Davis was added to the roster, but his health issues has kept the 12-year veteran on the sidelines; merely an observer of the goings-on.
Even a few strong games in early January by the geriatric Mike Bibby made a few entertain the thought that he had the moxie and experience to help drive this exciting if not sometimes wayward ship.
But, as Linsanity (and wins) began to take hold over the past week, the counter-concern began to gain major traction: “What will happen when Amar’e and Carmelo return?”
In just a few days, this team suddenly became much like the “team-ball” group of winners that enchanted the city early last season. That is, before the lion share of them were jettisoned to Denver in exchange for Melo and Chauncey.
Yes, Lin was the shining star as the team ripped off five straight wins, but how would the team’s stars mesh once the inevitable return became a reality?
Would there be enough shots to go around now that the team had found its next big star?
But again, what got lost in this worrisome examination was that the return of Melo and STAT should actually do wonders for Lin as a long-term player. The pair’s names in the starting lineup will take some of the scoring pressure off of Lin. It will allow him to develop as a point guard, as a leader and as the conductor of the Knickerbocker symphony. Lin’s future in the League is not going to be made dropping 25 points a night. His future will not be made showing up on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays.
No, the likelihood that Jeremy Lin someday is the proud owner of a decade-long NBA career will be tied to his ability to set his superstar teammates up and most importantly, help make the Knicks a serious playoff contender in the Eastern Conference. He needs to keep learning how to run the point, how to play consistently through long and tiring road trips and how to compete against Rose and Rondo in the postseason.
And if and when this does all truly happen, only then should the story of Jeremy Lin be a wonder to behold. Linsanity, indeed.