Expectations for Jeremy Lin's 2012-13 NBA Season
Unless you spent the past year living under a rock, you are well-versed in "Linsanity," a derivative of "TebowMania" that took the country–nay, the world–by storm in the month of February.
His highlights ranged from wire-to-wire domination (see: 2/10 vs. the Lakers) to last-minute heroics (see: 2/14 at Toronto). Alas, an unfortunate injury sidelined him for the end of the season, and deprived us of extending Linsanity into the playoffs. But his season remains a remarkable success.
The expectations are as high as they've been in New York since the Alan Houston era, prompting the question: What can we reasonably expect from Lin in 2012-2013?
Here are a few things to look for.
He Will Return to the Knicks
Lin is no guarantee to return to New York. Should he be so inclined, he is a restricted free-agent who is free to test the market.
But recent developments have made his return to The Big Apple more and more likely, starting with an arbitrator granting him early bird rights, a decision that allows the Knicks to re-sign him without using the mid-level exception.
Furthermore, there are encouraging proclamations from Mike Woodson, who brazenly named Lin his starting point guard (for the time being) on ESPN radio.
They extended him a qualifying offer on Wednesday, yet another portent of his imminent return. Don't expect him to call anywhere but Madison Square Garden home next season.
He Will Regress to the Mean
Anybody who doesn't know what this means would be well-served to google it right now.
Over an 11-game stretch last season, Lin averaged 24 points per game and 9.2 assists per game. Those numbers, sustained over the whole season, would have made him the league's fifth-leading scorer, and third-leading assist man.
Jeremy Lin proved that he belongs in the NBA, but he is neither of those things.
His regression began to show after his absurd 11-game stretch, as he began to more closely resemble the type of player he will truly be. Some would blame his slight regression on Carmelo Anthony's return to the lineup, claiming that he just needs a full offseason to learn how to coexist with the Knicks' superstar.
But a pragmatist would simply tell you that the league caught up to him. They got to watch his tape and analyze his tendencies.
Our expectations should be slightly tempered.
He Will Still Get Into the Paint
Yes, the league began to catch up to Lin in 2012, and yes, his numbers will begin regressing to the mean. But he does still have one elite skill: getting into the lane.
Sort of a shorter version of Manu Ginobili and James Harden, Lin is able to probe his way into the paint almost at will––even if it doesn't always look pretty. Finishing will always be a problem because of his height, but Lin showed a precocious ability to finish through contact last season.
If he can continue to do that, he can still be a very effective offensive force next season.
He Will Sell Out Arenas and Merchandise Outlets
Even if Lin's encore season is a total flop–I'm talking a Caddyshack 2-level flop–he'll still be the most marketable international product in the league.
Lin provides a beacon of hope for Asian-American fans across the country. Yao Ming was a start, but he still needed a translator when he first came over. Jeremy Lin is a hero to Asian-Americans who love the game of basketball; he's one of them!
Furthermore, Lin is a sensation in the far east, a market the NBA continues their effort to expand into. He will push LeBron for the league lead in jersey sales next year.
All eyes will be on Jeremy Lin when the season begins next fall, and he will have to deal with the weight of preseason expectations for the first time in his NBA career. But even if his scoring numbers don't increase, or he doesn't top his 38-point explosion when the Lakers come to visit New York, it doesn't mean he's a disappointment.
Jeremy Lin is what he is: a good-but-not-great point guard in the NBA. It's been a while since Knicks fans have had one of those, so they would be wise to appreciate what they've got.
And, if by some twist of fate Steve Nash suits up for the Knicks next season, don't fret: Jeremy Lin will become a far better player thanks to his tutelage.
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