The Knicks may have found their life(Lin)e: Jake’s Take

Expectations were sky-high for Carmelo Anthony’s first full season in a Knicks uniform, and the signing of defensive-minded center Tyson Chandler added fuel for the fire. However, after the first 22 games of the season the Knicks were a disappointing 7-15. It was clear that their lack of an effective point guard in a system that depends heavily on the position was their Achilles’ heel.

Enter Jeremy Lin.

Jeremy Lin played a combined 54 minutes in the Knicks’ first 22 games. Since receiving 35 minutes of playing time against the Nets on Feb. 4th, no player in the NBA has scored more points than the Knicks’ point guard in that nine game span. In those nine games the Knicks are 8-1 and Lin is averaging 25 points and 9 assists a game.

After high school, Lin wasn’t offered a Division I scholarship and his athleticism was questioned despite winning the northern California Division II player of the year. Asian American’s only contribute to 0.5 percent of the Division I college basketball players and many feel his race played a role in the lack of interest.

When evaluating Lin, one scout went so far as to say that he saw Lin’s lack of athleticism limiting him to the division III level in college. Lin isn’t a freak athlete; he has proven to be at least serviceable in that department. It’s fair to say that racial prejudice, likely unintentional, may have played a role in the lack of recruiting interest.

When Lin was asked about the subject he responded with this: “I’m not saying top-five state automatically gets you offers, but I do think [my ethnicity] did affect the way coaches recruited me. I think if I were a different race, I would’ve been treated differently.”

After a successful four-year career at Harvard, Lin went undrafted in the 2010 NBA draft. He eventually found a home in the Golden State where he played 29 games for the Warriors. With Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry demanding most of the minutes at the guard positions, this wasn’t a situation where Lin could make an impact.

Shortly after a brief stint with the Rockets, Lin was waived and picked up by the Knicks. It was rumored that the Knicks were considering waiving Lin in the days before his breakout to acquire veteran journeyman Mike James.

Fortunately for the Knicks, they didn’t. During this nine game stretch, Lin produced a 38-point game against the Lakers, 14 assists against the Mavericks, and a walk-off game winner against the Raptors. He played 35 or more minutes in all but one game and, most impressively, has a field goal percentage of over 50 percent in six of his nine contests, despite shooting more than 15 shots a game.

While Lin has certainly impressed, there are still aspects of his game that could use improvement. He’s turning the ball over at an alarming rate, easily the highest in the league since Feb. 4. Another question mark is Lin’s ability to defend the quicker point guards like Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo. Lin does a good job of creating turnovers, but he’ll need to work on staying in front of the players who are blessed with more athleticism.

Entering Wednesday’s action, Knicks are 16-17 and 0-1 since Carmelo Anthony returned to the lineup, and there are mixed opinions on how successful the Knicks can be with Lin and Carmelo playing together.

Skeptics point to Carmelo’s isolation and ball holding tendencies, two things that go against both Mike D’antoni’s system and Jeremy Lin’s playing style, as a reason they might struggle on the court together. Others argue that Carmelo was thrust into that role because there was no point guard to run a cohesive offense.

In interviews Carmelo seems supportive of Lin’s success and has also spoken about how it bothers him that some NBA analysts question his ability to collaborate with others, and call him a selfish player. As a result, I expect him to go out of his way to make sure he doesn’t impede on what the Knicks have accomplished with Lin.

In Carmelo’s first game back, he only hoisted 11 shots and dished out six assists, showing his willingness to defer. In the loss, opposing point guard Deron Williams scored 38 points and Jeremy Lin fouled out guarding the New Jersey centerpiece. Assuming Carmelo allows Lin to play his game while still doing what he does best, scoring the basketball, Anthony’s return should only help the Knicks come playoff time.