"Linsanity" should come as no surprise to anyone. After all, this is America, the land of the free and home of the brave, where underdogs defy odds and slay Goliath, break barriers, ditch rags for riches, get the girl and walk off into the sunset with the world's cutest beagle in tow.
So when Jeremy Lin emerged from nowhere and led the distressed New York Knicks to seven consecutive victories with his impressive play, it was only fitting we treated the experience as the Second Coming.
The seven-game win streak marked the 34th time in the franchise's 66-year history the Knicks had won at least so many games in a row. Lin, the undrafted, Asian-American guard out of Harvard, was the main catalyst of the streak, pulling a 1980 Playoff Magic Johnson, all but 42 days after getting cut by the Houston Rockets.
Between February 4th and 15th, "I've never seen anything like this," unofficially supplanted "I Love This Game" as the NBA's new tagline.
During the win streak, here are the ridiculous per-game averages Lin posted:
- 37.4 minutes
- 24.4 points
- 9.1 assists
- 4.0 rebounds
- 1.6 steals
- 51.2 percent FG shooting
Toss in a 38-point performance against the Lake Show, 23-and-10 against John Wall, and 27-and-11 in Toronto (including the game-winner), and it's no surprise Lin was named Player of the Week.
The performance doesn't just have the world upside down—it has it break-dancing on its axis. The kid is Superman. He doesn't just defy odds—he crushes stereotypes, and leaps tall buildings in a single bound.
He's not just any player, he's Michael Jordan in disguise. Say anything to the contrary and you're just a hater. Just hint at doubting he's a superstar in the making and you'll have quotes from current and past superstars thrown in your face.
“Players don’t usually come out of nowhere. If you can go back and take a look, his skill level was probably there from the beginning, but no one ever noticed.” – Kobe Bryant
“Lin is the real deal. He’s the true point guard the Knicks haven’t had in years. He’s the guy the Knicks have needed all along.” – Bernard King
“My God, he’s a tremendous player.” – Jerry West
“Jeremy Lin reminds me so much of Walt Frazier. It’s how Jeremy controls the game, gets the ball to the right people for easy baskets, the lobs he’s throwing to Tyson Chandler — it all reminds me of Clyde.” – Willis Reed
No, seriously, unbelievable: "too improbable for belief."
Of course all of this "Linsanity" is too good to be true. Willis Reed just compared Lin to Walt Frazier after seeing him play just seven games. Obviously, Reed's emotions in the moment got the best of him. All of our emotions got the best of us here, much like when Tim Tebow led the Denver Broncos to six-straight wins in dramatic fashion.
We loved the story. We loved "Rocky," we cried watching "Rudy," and now we want Hollywood endings to these stories.
Unfortunately, this is all just too good to be true.
This is the real world, not Hollywood, and undrafted, Asian-American guards from Harvard do not just appear like Hollow Man and become superstars overnight. For starters, there has only been one successful Asian NBA player and he was 7'6" and 310 pounds.
Secondly, Lin is only the fourth guy from Harvard to play in the NBA—the other three guys played prior to 1954 and each only played one season. The best pro basketball career to have originated from the Ivy League?
Bill Bradley, hands down. After him? Probably Chris Dudley. Talk about a drop-off.
What about undrafted players who went on to have exceptional NBA careers? After Ben Wallace—a freak physical specimen who won four Defensive Player of the Year awards—and Brad Miller—a two-time All-Star—both centers, every other undrafted player in league history can best be categorized as "quality role player."
David Wesley, Bruce Bowen, and John Starks probably round out the top five.
But this information isn't enough to even get you to start thinking about thinking about questioning if Lin is for real or not. You don't care that not one but two NBA teams cut him this season. Right? It's all about winning.
Never mind the fact five of those seven wins came against the worst teams in the league:
- New Jersey Nets: 9-23 and tied for last place in the Atlantic Division.
- Washington Wizards: 7-24 and tied for the second-worst record in the league.
- Minnesota Timberwolves: 15-16 and tied for last place in the Northwest Division.
- Toronto Raptors: 9-23 and tied for last place with the Nets in the Atlantic Division.
- Sacramento Kings: 10-20 and tied for the third-worst record in the league.
The Knicks were at full strength (with Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire) for the Nets game and just pulled it out in the fourth quarter. They beat the Wolves by two points after Kevin Love missed a three at the buzzer. The win over the Raptors came on a last-second shot by Lin.
The win over the Lakers came following a day off for the Knicks; the Lakers played a grueling overtime game the night before in Boston against the Celtics. Fatigued, the Lakers shot just 37.5 percent against the Knicks and committed 17 turnovers.
The win over Utah was no shock, considering the Jazz has just three road wins on the season.
A win is a win you say, and I reluctantly agree. But it should be noted the "Linning" didn't exactly come against the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder, but rather the league's weaker foes.
On a more worrisome note for you overly optimistic and hopeful Knicks fans, it should also be noted Lin apparently protects the ball like Casey Anthony does children. In the eight games this season Lin has played at least 25 minutes, he has committed 46 turnovers. That's an average of 5.8 turnovers per game.
Lin Lovers will counter by pointing to his 69 assists (8.6 per game) and completely fail to acknowledge an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.5 to 1.0 is simply lousy.
Among qualified players, only six guards in the entire league have a worse ratio than Lin right now.
Among players with at least 100 minutes played this season, Lin has the worst turnovers-per-36 minutes value (5.4 per game). Through 46 career games, Lin has a turnover percentage of 20.4, which for the past decade ranks him neck and neck with such distinguished company: Rick Brunson, Milt Palacio, Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson, Johnny Flynn and Greivis Vasquez.
These are not awful players, but clearly not your ideal starting point guard.
Lin Lovers will then argue the turnover issue is correctable: Lin is young and will learn to protect the ball. This is just untrue.
The turnover percentages (an estimate of turnovers per 100 plays) for Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Mark Jackson and John Stockton all remained steady or increased as their careers progressed.
As a rookie in 2006, Chris Paul's turnover percentage was 13.7. Last year, his sixth season in the league, Paul posted 13.9.
Historically speaking, guys have either been tight or loose with the ball, with little fluctuation in between. Russell Westbrook isn't going to start walking the ball up the court anytime soon. Don't expect Jose Calderon to run a break every chance he gets.
A player's style is his style. The last coach arrogant enough to try to change his player's natural style was Larry Brown. Brown sucked the life out of Stephon Marbury, was completely ignored by Allen Iverson and erroneously received credit for "fixing" Chauncey Billups (who actually shot the ball more under Brown).
Lin's style of play is his own. His assist-to-turnover ratio at Harvard was even worse (1.2 to 1.0). In 20 games with the D-League's Reno Bighorns last year, Lin's ratio was 1.6 to 1.0. The guy has never been a point guard until now, and that's because the alternatives are a rookie shooting guard (Iman Shumpert), a limited talent who's about to be out of the league (Toney Douglas) and a guy who should have retired three years ago (Mike Bibby).
Another area of concern is Lin's free-throw shooting. Among the 34 point guards in the NBA this season who have played at least 15 games and averaged at least one free throw attempt per game, only Jeff Teague, Goran Dragic, Devin Harris and Rajon Rondo have a worse clip than Lin's 75.3 percent.
And Harris is a career 80 percent shooter who doesn't appear to be healthy this year.
Rondo, the exception to the rule, gets away with the poor shooting because his assist-to-turnover ratio is excellent (three to one for his career). He's elite defensively, and he's surrounded by scorers who keep the pressure off of him.
In comparison, Lin's turnover ratio is awful, his defense is unremarkable and on a thin Knicks squad he's going to be targeted by opposing defenses.
One last issue I have with Lin pertains to his minutes and how he attacks the rim and draws contact. In San Antonio, Coach Popovich has always kept Manu Ginobili's minutes around 30 per game in effort to keep the Argentine pinball healthy.
Lin plays with a Ginobili-like reckless abandon and, if he's going to hold up physically, Coach D'Antoni can't keep playing him close to 40 minutes every night. Lin will need to learn to pace himself and pick his spots.
He has already taken a bunch of brutal hits; at this rate, he's bound to have an injury any day now.
All of the hype placed on Lin is unfair to him and completely typical of the Knicks, an organization that puts tourism first and basketball second. And unfortunately, the fanbase laps it all up like a dog that hasn't eaten in days.
In 54 games with the Knicks, Raymond Felton averaged 17.1 points and 9.0 assists per game and fans were screaming he should have made the All-Star team. Now that Felton is out of the New York City media limelight, does anyone even know if he's alive?
The same will happen to Jeremy Lin. He's ideal for scoring punch off the bench, but not a starting point guard role. The turnovers will continue. D'Antoni will keep running him into the ground.
And all it's going to take for the rest of the world to start saying what I'm saying now is a few losses. Just wait and see. He's good, but he's not this good.
Even some of the folks at Harvard agree.