Monday, February 13, 2012

Linsanity? Is It Doomed?

Jeremy Lin, the Chinese-American, Harvard-educated, New York Knicks point guard who's been a national sensation lately, is worn out.

Fatigue whipped him in the second half of the Minnesota game on Saturday. His legs were dead. That was clear from his second-half stats--one basket in 12 shots, after hitting 7 out of 12 in the first half. Without leg strength to elevate, jump shots go awry--and his certainly did. Three-point shooting is the real weakness in his game. He's only 3 for 17 during the Linsanity streak. In the second half of the Minnesota game he was really off target.

But Lin did score 20, guiding the Knicks (13-15), who were circling the drain not too long ago, to their fifth straight win since he's become their main point guard. The Minnesota game, which followed Friday's Laker contest, was his first back-to-back effort as a starter. Back-to-backs are tough. Playing many more minutes than he's used to finally caught up with Lin. Remember, a short while ago he was off the radar screen, buried in the minor leagues, in Erie, Pa. So playing starter's minutes, particularly in the back-to-back grind in the majors, takes some adjustment.

So where does Lin go from here? Could he become the steady, solid point guard the Knicks have desperately needed? Look at what he's done in only ten days--taken a bunch of so-so starters and backups and energized them into a winner. In the Minnesota  game, guard Iman Shumpert scored 20 points and was a major factor in the win. Credit Lin for some of that. Shumpert, a rookie some had written off as a bust, has blossomed in the last few games with Lin at the helm.

As of Tuesday, things will be different. One of the Knicks' Big Two--Amare Stoudemire--absent during nearly all of Linsanity because of a death in the family, is back. Lin will have to alter his game,  take less shots and learn to feed Stoudemire. That may not be so tough since Lin, a pick-and-roll wizard, will get to use that lethal offensive weapon with another master--Stoudemire.

What will take some adjustment is playing on the road. Tuesday's game, in Toronto against the Raptors, will be Lin's first outside Madison Square Garden since the onset of Linsanity.

Another adjustment for Lin will be learning to play starting-point-guard minutes with Carmelo Anthony--the other half of the Knicks' Big Two-on the floor. Due back at the end of the week, Anthony, who's been out during most of Linsanity with a groin pull, is a notorious ball hog who disrupts any offense. Since he was traded from Denver, the Nuggets, jelling around team-play principles, are much better without  him. Now he's the Knicks' headache. He'll be Lin's headache too.

That's not all. Another ego looms in the background. When injured point guard Baron Davis is healthy, does he take over the starting job, putting Lin back on the bench and maybe putting an end to Linsanity? It'll be interesting to see how coach Mike D"Antoni handles this one.