Jeremy Lin has highlighted the New York Knicks journey for the last several games, plus a few more. His points per game average has been ridiculous, and so have his turnovers per game.
As Lin’s doubters continue to point out, Lin is far from a finished product. Let Spike Lee and the New York faithful tell it: Lin is already boasting the midseason statistics of a regular-season MVP.
At least that is the way everyone felt before he went up against LeBron James & Co. in South Beach.
Let’s not make excuses for the kid. Lin was most definitely out of his league, but the NBA is a professional basketball arena filled with men who had to claw their way to get to this point.
Lin has an incredible story to attach to the bullet-point stats each night, but he still has some proving to do before he can be crowned.
Everyone has seen what Lin can do without Carmelo Anthony on the wing awaiting a fresh feed. We all know that he can adequately dictate New York’s offense and get the easy buckets in transition.
There is no doubt that with a bit more molding and a few more lessons in ball control, Lin can bring something special to the NBA.
But the mistake that NY fans made coming into the game Thursday night was assuming that it was a measuring stick for Jeremy Lin.
It was truly a test for Carmelo Anthony.
This game had nothing to do with anyone else and if you think so, you were terribly mistaken.
Carmelo and LaLa Anthony are the first couple of New York, at least according to New York media when the former Denver star first arrived.
Anthony has always had that star appeal, but venturing off into a huge market franchise like the NY Knicks only propelled him further into the spotlight. With a beautiful wife and child trailing not too far behind him, Anthony forged a new identity in NY.
He was officially a celebrity of all sorts and his brand grew to monstrous heights. The NY Knicks had a new man in charge not too long after bringing in savior Amare Stoudemire, who was deemed the Knicks’ leading man first.
Those roles immediately shifted when ‘Melo arrived, yet there is nothing much to show for it. The Knicks are just as perplexing a team as they were before his involvement, if not more confusing than the half of a season before.
Anthony brought his pure scoring abilities, but nothing that the Knicks did not have plenty of.
Coach Mike D’Antoni runs a high-octane offense. Therefore, Carmelo’s natural abilities to score anywhere on the floor did nothing but compound the problem.
There was still a lack of defense and if the New York Knicks cannot outscore you, they are forced back to the drawing board as if they do not understand what went wrong.
Anthony can hit those clutch shots, but it does not appear that he can do what is necessary on the huge stage to lead his team to victory. Scoring an average of 27 points over a few games is beautiful, if those points lead to deep playoff runs.
That is all that matters in the league any more: a ring. If you do not have one, you better have the sky-high potential to snag one or you are just another celebrity hooper who just cannot cut it.
The Miami Heat is a team that Carmelo Anthony will almost definitely have to push through in order to come out of the Eastern Conference.
The possibility of this seems little-to-none.
People trash talk about LeBron James on a daily basis for not having won a ring. However, Carmelo sits on the same end of that ring-less stick. Not to mention, he had players like veteran guard Chauncey Billups, guard JR Smith, big man Nene Hilario and guard Ty Lawson on his heels.
He should have been more than prepared going into the postseason and still has never quite cut the mustard.
It might be time to accept that while Anthony is one of the greatest scorers to ever play the game, he may never quite mesh with the pieces around him enough to lead them to an NBA championship.
Watching him on a national stage against the Miami Heat spoke volumes about what people are starting to expect from the famed ‘Melo.
In the first quarter, he was absent in every form possible. When Miami began punching the Knicks in the mouth early, as expected, Carmelo was not there to bail his compadres out.
His job as such an accurate shooter is to counterattack his opposition with a run of his own. Regardless of the pace of his teammates, leaders in the NBA set their own stride on the court.
Take a look at Kobe Bryant when his squad seems to be dragging their feet. Their dysfunctions in no way affect how he runs the game and his desire to put them on his back until they regain their composure.
The Knicks have heavily relied on Jeremy Lin to be their guy. He has been commandeering the Knicks’ offense in Carmelo’s absence and with great success. But, he had yet to face a franchise with not one, not two, but three All-Stars (two starting, one reserve) on their roster.
Lin was combating two of the top five best players in the league and it was quite understandably something he did not appear ready for. Carmelo Anthony, on the other hand, has faced obstacles like this.
He should have been able to adapt to what appeared to be a low-hostile environment and show off like Spike and the NY fans in attendance expected him to. Hell, like Miami fans and everyone tuning in from home expected him to.
Instead, we were all treated to a bad shooting selection.
NBA players are allowed a bad game. But, when your team expects you to be their guy and has always expected you to be the one in charge, a game such as the one Thursday night against Miami cannot be perceived as a night off.
It was a measuring stick for multiple reasons, but the primary conclusion that would be drawn was whether Carmelo Anthony would ultimately fit in the Knicks’ system as it is right now. That is all any of us really want to know.
Can Anthony flourish under D’Antoni beside Amare Stoudemire as NY’s front office essentially intended? Could he be “that guy” for New York as time wound down and it was time to play for all the marbles?
Carmelo Anthony did nothing to quiet the rumors that one of the two must make a grand exit. He made the option seem more like a requirement than a choice. The perception in New York is that there is a bunch of talent scurrying around in the locker room, but none of the puzzle pieces fit.
They seem to have just been smashed together at the last minute to create some frazzled and manic masterpiece. New York cannot continue to sit around twiddling their thumbs hoping that ‘Melo and Amare can find an ounce of cohesiveness.
Their renewed reputation depends on swift action. Coach Mike D’Antoni’s job relies on it as well. Their pursuit of an NBA championship is hanging in the balance labeled “undetermined.”
Jeremy Lin is an intricate fraction of what direction the Knicks are headed in. He is a great player at the point and that position succeeds massively in D’Antoni’s system. But, the blame for Thursday night’s loss cannot rest on his shoulders.
Lin only connected on a single field goal and racked up his other six points at the foul line. He had eight turnovers, which no one found too surprising. Plainly stated, Jeremy sucked and he sucked really good. Miami took advantage of him and put the pressure on him whenever they could. And it worked.
However, Stoudemire only attempted seven field goals. The second man-in-charge only attempted seven field goals in 30 minutes. His field-goal percentage riddled around 57 percent because he barely shot the ball. There were rarely any opportunities to miss.
Then the great Amare had six turnovers, only two less than the Madison Square Garden turnover king.
Carmelo Anthony finished the night off with 19 points on 7-of-20 shooting as Miami walked away with the 14-point victory. There was nothing in the Knicks’ game that slated a win and the Heat watched them beat themselves.
Jeremy Lin is a good player who was playing against great players Thursday night.
Carmelo Anthony is a superstar player who was playing against men of his caliber and abilities. Instead of being his team’s captain, he became their liability.
Who was truly exposed?
Follow Joye Pruitt on Twitter @JoyetheWar
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