Could Jeremy Lin be the next Tim Tebow?
No, seriously. This is the question on the tip of America's tongue, if only because one good hype-job deserves another.
Tebow captured our imagination with his inspirational message, miraculous comebacks, inept passing, and rhino-like dashes into the open field. Lin is a nice young man who has provided a ray of sunshine for New York Knicks fans—and just may just be the point guard they have so badly needed.
Last Saturday, Lin came out of nowhere to hang 25 points on the New Jersey Nets in a 99-92 Knicks win. Two nights later, in a start against the Jazz, Lin put up 28 points and eight assists, leading New York to a 99-88 victory over Utah. Oh, and the Knicks won that game without the services of Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.
Iman Shumpert wasn't the answer at the point-guard slot, nor is it looking like Baron Davis will be healthy any time soon. Instead, it took a former NBA D-Leaguer who has embraced Mike D'Antoni's system to get the team humming. Lin is just the latest example of how easy it is to put up numbers in that system for any guard capable of acknowledging his teammates, but that's a story for another day.
The point guard out of Harvard University is a feel-good story, the latest Knicks sensation, and possibly the missing ingredient that New York has needed all along. He is also a welcome relief from the team's identity as "Carmelo and Amar'e Inc.", where two gargantuan talents struggle to work together and consistently deliver wins.
Lin is obviously not nearly the player either of those two are, but so far, he's been in the right place at the right time. And this makes everybody happy.
Tim Tebow, whose religious views are no secret, probably considers luck the pay-off for faith; Lin is also an enthusiastic Christian. Whether you feel like pushing things in that direction is your business. The bottom line is that, thus far, Lin has been a welcome surprise, a Cinderella story that no one wants to see end.
But reality will, at some point, come knocking.
Let's say, for argument's sake, that Lin does have some staying power with the Knicks. Even if his current hot streak regresses to the mean, it's entirely possible that the guy who couldn't get off the bench with the Golden State Warriors is a good match for New York this season. Jeremy Lin spends the rest of this year as the Knicks starting point guard.
He will then go from welcome surprise to the guy entrusted with making this squad click. On some level, a D'Antoni team exists in a state of never-ending garbage time. Superstars like Carmelo and Amar'e can either be incorporated into that flow or run counter to it.
In that case, it's up to Lin to find ways to make them comfortable without sacrificing the spirit of the offense. Without one, or both of them, the New York shares the ball and they display energy and activity, and break a sweat on every play. They also are missing two of the league's most potent offensive weapons.
Jeremy Lin will go from fresh-faced phenom to a real basketball player, asked to solve a real basketball problem, or maybe he will stand as a beacon of hope with Stoudemire and Anthony representing all that is wrong with the team. Those two bums are keeping New York in a rut. Double-"Ewing Theory" for days. Besides, it has worked out just fine for the Denver Nuggets—Carmelo Anthony's last team—hasn't it?
Anthony and Stoudemire have done nothing but disappoint. They are big-ticket names brought in to transform a franchise, but it is almost impossible for them to meet those expectations, no matter how well they play.
Such is life in New York.
The question is: what makes for a better basketball team? Is it one that values viewer feedback above actual, long-term gains? Jeremy Lin is a nice story, and maybe the missing piece, but he is not going to solve all of the Knicks' problems. In fact, he may have created a new one.
That is, unless he really does turn out to be the NBA's version of Tim Tebow. Then, at some point, we will all just have to throw up our hands and accept him as the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Too bad basketball isn't football. It takes more than a few games to make a legend, though judging from the early returns on Lin, you never know.
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