For a short time, Jeremy Lin shone brighter than any star in sports. Now he’s out of New York and the story ends, right? No, he will be back. Consider this the ‘Lin’teregnum.
He’s an über-marketable player who has a monopoly on the fan base of the second largest country in the world. Experts say he could be a poor man’s Steve Nash. There are so many ways to incorporate his name into some sort of phrase or quote.
It would seem Jeremy Lin would be the envy of any team in the NBA. All the Knicks had to do was shell out a few million dollars in luxury tax and he was theirs.
But they didn’t. They let him go. Jeremy Lin found a way to guarantee himself a fist full of dollars (and a few dollars more) while the Rockets were able to craft a poison pill designed to see if James Dolan had the cojones to match their offer. Dolan didn’t, and Lin is now headed to Houston.
You can read into this all you want. You can say Lin was being a diva, or Dolan was being spiteful. Go ahead, but that won’t get you anywhere. The New York Knicks decided they were better off with Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, not to mention a little smaller payroll.
And they’re better off for it. And so is Jeremy Lin.
Linsanity was probably the best story in sports last year, despite an ambiguous ending. Aparently “85%” means different things to different people. To many, the story might be ruined by Lin’s struggles with Melo and Amare, his injury, and his absence in the playoffs. So how was this story going to get better this year? Lin magically finds a way in his first full year as an NBA point guard to congeal the New York offense? The Knicks beat Boston and Miami en route to beating the Thunder? Would he be an All-Star?
There wouldn’t be a happy ending to the next 30 for 30 movie. Because when you play that well in New York you have to keep playing that well. Tom Coughlin gets fired every year, despite his winning ways with the Giants. Anything short of perfection isn’t enough for the Yankees. So if Lin had a decent year and the Knicks got eliminated in the first round, things would get ugly. And maybe you believe Lin would average 20 and 10 and lead the Knicks to the East Finals. And if you believe that I think you’re unnaturally optimistic.
Going to Houston is probably the best thing that could have happened to Jeremy Lin’s career. And if you think about what I’m going to tell you, you’ll realize how perfectly it’s coming together for him. Actually, the large salary is almost an afterthought. In Houston, a better sports city than it’s given credit for, Lin will be the biggest athlete in the city. He’ll make it his town. Houston also has a foot in the door with China after Yao Ming’s distinguished career. In other words, the Rockets will make about a bazillion dollars in merchandise sales and he could very well be voted to the All-Star game year after year.
He will also get invaluable opportunities to refine his game. He’ll have a lot of free reign to take lots of shots, but he’s also joined in the backcourt (as of now, we’ll see if Houston deals some more) by Kevin Martin, the best really good scorer you’ve never heard of. The pair may be one of the worst defensive backcourts in the game, but they could become one of the finest offensive ones. As of now, the Rockets seriously lack scorers, so Martin will probably look to shoot a ton of shots. With Lin driving and dishing, he could score 24-28 points per game this year. He might change his name to Kevin MartLin. More importantly, Lin can practice point guard skills knowing that the guy he’s passing the ball to can consistently chuck it into the hoop. He wouldn’t be able to do that with Melo holding the ball on the wing for ten seconds.
And so while Lin might fade from national attention a little this year, and while his field goal percentage may drop and his turnovers rise, he will continue to improve. And, maybe, the team around him will improve too. Maybe the crew of young players drafted this year all turn out to be pretty good. What I’m saying is, Jeremy Lin will be able to become the “poor man’s Steve Nash” or better (I think he could be a better defender) in Houston, while he would have struggled to find himself in the disjointed Knicks team.
Like I said, this works out for the Knicks too. With Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton, they have two point guards who look to pass (and pass well) as opposed to a scoring point guard in Lin. Kidd is one of five players in this league who could possibly work out how to use Melo and Amare in an offense. And, actually, one of the others is now a New York Knick.
I was one of the few people who actually paid attention to the Knicks consistently before the Melo trade. If you forgot, they were pretty good, despite struggles in the beginning of the season and in the weeks leading up to the trade for Anthony. At one point Amare scored over 30 in nine straight games, with the Knicks winning eight of those games (all in the midst of winning 13 out of 14). And while Gallinari, Chandler (Wilson) and Fields were are playing well, it was Raymond Felton who was balling with Stoudemire. Before he was traded to Denver, Felton averaged 16.2 points and 8.4 assists per game. He and Stoudemire were playing very well together. Sure, he came into the season out of shape this year and had a weak tenure with the Trailblazers, but he showed in New York that he is a fine NBA point guard and he can play very well with Stoudemire. I think he could work out how to play well with Amare and Melo, and even if he doesn’t, I could see times when Melo is sitting that Felton and Stoudemire just take over (after all, wouldn’t they be better off with Melo and Amare on the court together as little as possible?).
The Lin Saga is, in a way, put on hold for a while. It won’t have the captivating excitement of Linsanity, but in the end it will provide a better story. His time in New York was only Act 1. It was only the first work of art by ‘Lin’ardo DaVinci. Okay that one was kind of lame.
I feel like I’m alone on this. Tell me what you think. Comment, like, follow/subscribe, post to Facebook and Twitter, email at email@example.com. Thank you for reading! The next installment in the Grading the Games series is coming soon.