Lin, and in turn Linsanity, has taken over the thoughts of every NBA fan for many reasons. His heritage, education, initial struggles to establish himself in both college and the NBA as well as the fact that he plays in New York have all been covered extensively by almost all major media outlets in America. However, nobody seems to realize what Lin is doing for the sport.
As far as physical talent and performance on the court, Lin is good—not great, but good. He struggles in defense and has too many turnovers, he actually set the record with 30 in his first five games. However, what he loses in physical skill, he makes up for with his attitude and courage. Despite only being the starter for a matter of weeks, and only earning his opportunity through others' misfortune, Lin has almost instantly become a leader for the Knicks.
Whether it be his nerdy ritual with teammate Landry Fields, his enthusiasm and energy with the rest of his teammates or his constant deflection of praise onto them, Lin's attitude has permeated through the roster and brought a losing team together into a winning force. In today's NBA, franchises focus more on assembling superstars to rely on opposed to building a team where the pieces complements each other equally.
The Miami Heat have the most famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, aligning of superstars with Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Pat Riley put that team together to win a championship depending on those three pieces. The knock-on effect of those moves saw teams like the New Jersey Nets, who traded for Deron Williams, and the Knicks themselves give up a huge amount of pieces for one superstar player.
After adding Amar'e Stoudemire prior to last season, the Knicks traded for Carmelo Anthony, one of the most talented all-around scorers in the game. While Anthony and Stoudemire are both perennial all-stars, neither is what you would consider to be a team player. Both have reputations for slowing down offenses and demanding a lot of field goal attempts. In the 23 games that the Knicks played with either Stoudemire or Anthony on the court without Lin, the team was 8-15.
Since Lin has become the starting point guard the Knicks are 7-0. Much like the Denver Nuggets last season after trading Anthony to the Knicks, the whole team has played much more fluid basketball with more players contributing than previously. Lin isn't Steve Nash, at least not yet, but he does share a similar trait in that he brings his team together and makes those around him better.
Ever since Lin has been on the court, center Tyson Chandler has taken his game to a whole new level, which is saying something because he was already one of the best in the league at his position. Chandler no longer sits back and watches Anthony or Stoudemire take outside shots while he does the dogged work on defense. With Lin running the offense, he knows that he can expect the ball. Because of that, his enthusiasm and vigor on both sides of the ball have made him a more all-around player.
Much like Chandler, Lin has also brought the team's outside shooters into the game more as Steve Novak and Landry Fields have played with a renewed intensity on both sides of the ball. In previous years, Mike D'Antoni's teams have been built on offense because of the system that they run. This year's team still runs that very offense, but defensively the passion and teamwork on show is what is winning them games.
Take, for example, Lin's last-second shot in Toronto to beat the Raptors. Prior to that moment, Chandler had put in a huge block on defense, while rookie Iman Shumpert stole the ball at mid-court for an easy two points.
Shumpert, Lin and Fields all complement each other very well at the guard positions both offensively and defensively because of Fields' all-around game, Lin's offensive ability and Shumpert's sheer athleticism. While Lin may be receiving all the praise for his scoring, he should be receiving more credit for reviving a group of players who once appeared lost and unsure of themselves.
The Knicks no longer look like two stars trying to carry the other guys on the roster. Now they have a well-oiled machine which has been brought together by Lin. He isn't a superstar, but he is the perfect cog which allows the Knicks as a whole to function. Team basketball is an overlooked concept in today's NBA. It is no surprise that a point guard is the reason it could return.
Who cares about his heritage, what college he went to or where he plays basketball. All that matters to me is what he does on the court. By that, I don't just mean putting the ball in the basket either.
Lin has renewed the idea of winning together, and surely at some point losing together, without trying to make statements alone. His humble attitude off the court is refreshing, but its effects on the court are more notable.