Prior to the Los Angeles Lakers' foray into Madison Square Garden last night, superstar Kobe Bryant didn't know much about New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin. After getting an up-close-and-personal look, though, he now knows what Linsanity is all about.
According to Brian Lewis of the New York Post, Bryant said he "didn't even know what Lin had done" ahead of the Lakers' 92-85 loss. Lin set a career-high with 38 points and added seven assists as well in his fourth consecutive dominant performance. Kobe isn't in the dark any longer.
He played extremely well. If that’s the way he’s been playing these last three, four games, he played phenomenal," Bryant said. "We watched tape on him, came up with a strategy we thought would be effective. [But] knocking down his jump shot, penetrating and getting past our guards into the paint, [it didn’t work].
Whenever a player admits that a game plan was torn to shreds, it has to be construed as a major compliment to the person responsible for the chaos. Bryant isn't one to praise just anyone, so it's obvious that he was quite impressed by the Knicks' sudden star.
Usually when Kobe and the Lakers come to the Garden, it is a major story since Bryant is one of the best players of all time, and the Lakers are always among the league's top teams. Despite Los Angeles' struggles this season Kobe is still a dominant force, but he was upstaged by Lin in the tabloids and on the court.
It's fair to say that there has never been a phenomenon that has swept across the NBA, or any league for that matter, as quickly as Linsanity has. The Knicks were scuffling badly with Carmelo Anthony injured and the offense playing out of sync. Since Lin started getting minutes, though, New York has become a totally different team.
Head coach Mike D'Antoni's offense has always been contingent upon excellent point guard play. That is why the Phoenix Suns were so dangerous during his time in the desert as Steve Nash ran the team to perfection. It may be premature to compare Lin to a two-time MVP, but he has looked very Nash-like thus far.
It was crazy to think that some conglomeration of Toney Douglas, Mike Bibby and Iman Shumpert could effectively run such a high-tempo offense. Lin has the endurance and the decision-making ability to do it, though, and that's why the Knicks have excelled, even without Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire as of late.
The likes of Kobe and LeBron James are always going to be major stars, but nobody cares much about them right now. Basketball fans are always looking for new stars to embrace, and it's really hard not to like Lin.
He attended Harvard, which isn't really a basketball powerhouse most of the time; he was released by two subpar teams prior to the season and he's Asian American, which is rare to see in the sport. Lin is new and different, and above all else he's an underdog.
It just so happens that this underdog could be developing into one of the best players in the league, and the big dogs like Kobe are starting to take notice.