NBA Playoffs 2012: The Real Reason Knicks' Jeremy Lin Won't Play in Game 5

Conor O'BrienContributor IMay 8, 2012

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 28:  Guard Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks works out  prior to his team taking on the Miami Heat in Game One of the Eastern  Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs  on April 28, 2012 at the American Airines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

Over the course of the last 48 hours, I’ve seen a number of reports indicating that Jeremy Lin is not yet ready to suit up for the New York Knicks and will almost certainly not play in Game 5.

Even if he does play, it’s unlikely he will make enough of an impact to dramatically sway the outcome of the game to a winning effort, but this is the playoffs. It’s gut-check time, and I see a guy who’s pragmatically weighing the pros and cons of returning to the court rather than someone who is looking to put it all on the line when his team needs him the most.

When I heard he wasn’t a shoo-in for Game 5, I was puzzled and somewhat shocked. If the medical doctors have told him that he can risk re-aggravating the injury, then I absolutely believe he should sit out. To be fair, this may be the case. But, it’s probably not.

In all likelihood, doctors have told Lin he can play without re-injuring himself. He underwent arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus, which is a fairly common procedure. This not a torn ACL. This is not a dislocated patella.

This is a common injury that typically sidelines a player for four to six weeks. A 39-year-old Grant Hill came back from this injury within three weeks. Many others have come back in four to five weeks. It will be five and a half weeks by the time the Wednesday night tip off comes around.

And you’re telling me Lin can’t give the Knicks 15-20 minutes?

I do not understand the logic of those who say it is not worth bringing him back if they’re down, 3-1. This, to me, is largely irrelevant if the doctors have told Lin he is not at risk for further injury. If Baron Davis and Iman Shumpert had not been lost to knee injuries, the situation would be different, but now the Knicks, with a depleted roster decimated by injuries, need Lin more than ever.

I’d take a 70 to 80 percent Jeremy Lin over a 100 percent Mike Bibby or Toney Douglas, and I’m fairly confident Mike Woodson would, too. It’s a matter of being there when his team is on the brink of playoff elimination and showing some semblance of toughness and grit.

His comments have not exactly inspired confidence, often belaboring the fact that he can’t make hard cuts or has not yet worked himself into game shape.

Why have doctors said he is ahead of schedule than? How can you be ahead of schedule when nearly six weeks have gone by for an injury that is only supposed to sideline you for six weeks?

There are reasons he might want to sit out. He will be a restricted free agent in the summer and is playing for a new contract. He may be worrying that a dismal performance can distort the perception around the league and within the Knicks' organization.

This can cost him dollars. Also, the Knicks' previous encounter with Miami did not go so well. Miami’s swarming defense helped stymie Lin as he finished with only three points and eight turnovers.

However, this is surprisingly foolish rationale for a Harvard graduate. This is a risk/reward situation with the reward far outweighing the risk.

A heroic Game 5 performance, even in a loss, would dramatically boost his stock and re-energize the Knicks' fan base for a highly anticipated 2012-2013 campaign.

And, what if they actually win the game? His status in New York will be immediately restored and media members will bestow upon him the most overused term in sports, “warrior.”

On the flip side, if the Knicks were to lose as Lin turns the balls over several times and shoots poorly, Lin's stock would not be diminished. It will be cast aside as a situation where he was rusty in his first game back. Fans and the organization would not hold this against him and would very promptly forgive him.

Lin needs to be out there if there is no risk for further injury. He owes this to the organization that gave him a chance, the fans that wholeheartedly embraced him and the city that made him a household name.