Whew. Wasn’t that an exciting NBA season? It flew by so fast, ending almost as quickly as it started.
Yes, I am aware that there are roughly four more weeks left in the NBA schedule, but for certain fans,—i.e., myself—the season ended when New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. His season is likely over, as reported by ESPN's Ian Begley.
I know the NBA season was supposed to be a shortened one due to the work stoppage last summer, but who knew that it would only last six weeks? That’s approximately the length of Lin’s unexpected and charismatic run.
The twice-released third-string point guard burst onto the scene and took the league by storm, infecting the city of New York, its legion of rabid fans, the entire country and the world with the Linsanity virus. From his first extended minutes against the New Jersey Nets on Feburary 4th—when he scored 25 points off the bench—to his final appearance of the season—a 24-minute showing in a blowout of the Detroit Pistons on March 24th—Lin was what kept me engaged in the otherwise redundant NBA.
In fact, it can be argued that during the height of Linsanity, when he single-handedly carried the walking-wounded Knicks team to seven straight victories in mid-February, Lin was the NBA’s savior. Apathy toward the NBA from fed-up sports fans who chided the league, team owners and even the players for the transparent argument over hundreds of millions of dollars quickly evaporated when the Linsanity contagion swept the nation.
Admittedly, I myself went from a basketball boycotter to a frothing-rabid Knicks fan in a New York minute.
It certainly was inspiring for this fellow Asian American from the Bay Area to follow Lin’s ascent. But beyond race and his geographical roots, Lin’s unexpected success could be appreciated and related to by many different walks of life.
Who wouldn’t be inspired by a young man who: played college basketball at Harvard; was signed by his hometown team (the Golden State Warriors) as a rookie free agent last year; was released days before his sophomore season in the NBA; was cut again by a second team (the Houston Rockets) less than a week later; and sat as the last man on the bench on a talent-laden Knicks team before averaging 24.6 points over a 10-game stretch?
It's a fairly incredible underdog story.
I, for one, was amped for every 4 p.m. start time on the West Coast, following each scintillating update of his stats. Lin had me paying attention to daily basketball performances in ways that no other player could. I mean, Lin had me glued to the turnovers column—who does that? What casual fan cares about turnovers?
While Lin’s meteoric rise was incredibly captivating, the supernova of achievement and excitement eventually died down. Injured starters Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony returned to the Knicks lineup and head coach Mike D'Antoni resigned. Losses mounted, abounding with turmoil.
Despite all of Lin’s accolades and the attention he was generating, the team’s losses took center stage. Losing was the only thing that could theoretically quell Linsanity.
What's your interest level of the Knicks without a healthy Jeremy Lin?
Until the March 24th game against the Pistons, that is. What seemed like an innocuous sore left knee turned out to be a meniscus tear that proved to be too painful to function at a high level.
He needed surgery.
And just like that, Linsanity was eradicated for the 2011-2012 campaign.
Consequently, and coincidentally, my interest in the NBA—poof!—vanished. What’s the point now? To see the same drivel shoveled at us over and over again? The me-first NBA players who showcase their SportsCenter "Top 10" theatrics instead of true team-first basketball?
Lin seemed to epitomize everything that the NBA lockout was not. After all, he wasn’t about the money (dude was sleeping on a teammate’s couch). He was humble and gracious. And obviously, he was a hard worker and incredibly determined to fulfill a dream to play in the NBA.
It was refreshing to see Lin, an out-of-nowhere phenomenon, succeed in a way that defied the platitudes of today’s NBA superstars. Lin defied the odds in a myriad of ways—everything from where he went to college to his height, his Asian-American race and his general skill set.
Can the Knicks make the playoffs without Jeremy Lin?
With Lin rehabilitating for at least the next six weeks, it’s safe to say that the Linsanity clause no longer applies in my attentiveness toward the NBA—at least not until he returns next season. But who knows? Maybe the Knicks can finagle a postseason berth (they currently sit eighth in the Eastern Conference) and last long enough to welcome Lin back to the lineup.
If New York can manage to advance to the second round of the playoffs, there’s a small possibility that Lin could be healthy enough to rejoin the team.
Yes, it’s an outside chance—but with regards to Lin, that’s all he needs.
Imagine Lin in a Willis Reed-type scenario where he comes off the bench and rallies the Knicks to a series-clinching victory. It'd be the perfect icing on the Linsanity 2012 cake. That type of riveting NBA playoffs scenario would thoroughly engage his fans in the Linsane asylum.
However, if he is unable to appear in any games for the remainder of this season and postseason, then the NBA playoffs will continue to be the lengthy production that it always is. And that’s where the enthusiasm in the NBA evaporates.
If Lin ain’t in, then who cares?
Follow me on Twitter: @nathanieljue