The Knicks may have found their life(Lin)e: Will’s Spill


The Knicks were 8-15 after their loss to the Boston Celtics on Feb. 3 and had lost 11 of their last 13. Head coach Mike D’Antoni was a bad loss away from being fired, Carmelo Anthony was being questioned as a leader and as an effective piece of the Knicks future, and a feeling of cynicism — so prevalent in the center of the basketball world for the last decade — began creeping back into Madison Square Garden. But then it all changed.

Despite the Knicks losing their two stars in the days following their loss to Boston — Carmelo would miss seven games with a groin injury and Amar’e Stoudemire would miss four games dealing with the tragic passing of his 35 year old brother — they gained a new one in the form of Jeremy Lin.

Inexplicably, incredibly Jeremy Lin has taken over New York and the NBA. Lin tops all NBA players in jersey sales, and ESPN and the sports media have already exhausted their use of Lin-associated puns in their headlines, but the most important development of all is that Lin saved a quickly fading Knicks season.

Lin led the Knicks’ seven game win streak — 8-2 overall — to put New York back in playoff contention, on the way putting up an average stat line of 24.6 ppg, 9.2 apg, 4.1 rpg, and elevated his own play in the final minutes of games. In his small 10-game sample, Lin is putting up numbers that come awfully close to resembling that of Derrick Rose’s MVP season of 2011 when he averaged 26.8 ppg, 7.2 apg and 3.4 rpg.

Am I getting a little ahead of myself in comparing Lin to Derrick Rose? Maybe a little, but it’s hard not to when he has had such a drastic impact on the New York City. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the last decade of Knicks history.

Between 2001-2010 the Knicks were arguably the worst franchise in sports and undeniably the worst sports franchise in New York. To make matters worse, the overwhelming mediocrity was taking place in the city whose collective heartbeat pulsates within the walls of Madison Square Garden. In the past decade the Knicks had a combined record of 321-499 — good for a .391 winning percentage — and had a playoff record of 0-8. The organization was defined by bad personnel decisions, dreadful leadership from both players and coaches, and off the court scandals that sapped MSG of its electricity and enthusiasm. In short, they were unbearable to watch and nearly unbearable to root for.

By 2010 the magic started trickling its way back to MSG. The Knicks failed to land Lebron James but they picked up Amar’e Stoudemire, traded for Carmelo Anthony, and made the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The Knicks were relevant again and they enhanced their roster further by adding Tyson Chandler this past offseason. Entering this season, New York’s hope for this team was higher than it has been since the turn of the millennium. And then the fragile hope of Knicks fans began to crack and chip away as the losses piled up and the Knicks were staring at an 8-15 record on Feb. 4. Incredibly, Carmelo Anthony — the hometown kid and superstar everyone had dreamt would end up in a Knicks uniform — was being booed, labeled as a selfish player and team cancer. Then, in stepped Jeremy Lin and, well, you know the rest.

Without Lin the entire blueprint of the Knicks rebuilding project would have been blown up, Mike D’Antoni would have lost his job, and the Knicks would have likely continued their downward spiral out of playoff contention. This season would have been yet another chapter in the tragic story that is recent Knicks’ history.

Instead the basketball gods — maybe as repayment for the past decade of cruelty — completely reversed New York basketball fortunes. They sent New York the most unlikely of saviors at the most unlikely of times. In the course of two weeks, the Knicks went from being one of the most dissapointing stories of the NBA into one of the best, from long shot to making the playoffs into challenger in the Eastern Conference.

Other than the Bulls and the Heat, there isn’t a team that the Knicks can’t beat in a seven game series. The difference in talent between the Magic, Pacers, Sixers, Hawks, Knicks and even the Celtics is paper-thin. The likelihood is high that this year New York will not only win their first playoff game in over a decade, but they will win a playoff series. And it is thanks in large part to an Asian-American from Harvard who, up until two weeks ago, was squatting on any couch that was available.