Knicks Badly Need Jeremy Lin to Be Jeremy Lin, as Either Starter or Reserve

Rob Mahoney@RobMahoneyNBA Lead WriterJuly 10, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 20:  Jeremy Lin #17 of the New York Knicks steals the ball in the second half against Andrea Bargnani #7 of the Toronto Raptors at Madison Square Garden on March 20, 2012 in New York City.  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 Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

As we begin to piece together what next season's New York Knicks might look like and how they might play, Jeremy Lin stands as an entirely crucial component. With the rotation at one wing position still in question, Lin may have to be one of New York's top perimeter defenders next season, while also saving the offense from Carmelo Anthony's gravitational pull.

Lin will have his work cut out for him, but unlike last season, he'll have some help. New York's impending signing of Jason Kidd may not be a cure-all, but Kidd's presence alone should help to alleviate the burden hoisted on the shoulders of a still relatively unproven point guard.

That said, Kidd could also lure Mike Woodson into a rotational mistake. Veteran guidance from the top of the key is among the NBA's most fetishized commodities. And even though Lin—mysterious though he may be—looks like the superior player at this point, it's entirely possible that Kidd is awarded a starting role and more minutes than his on-court value merits.

The former is much less worrisome than the latter. Who starts or finishes games is a far more minute worry than who ends up seeing the most floor time for the Knicks.

Lin's drive-and-kick game is the most straightforward means available to unlocking New York's offense. His ability to dribble penetrate is crucial for opening up shooting windows for Steve Novak and Landry Fields. The defensive attention that was often afforded Lin late in his midseason run was good for Tyson Chandler, Amar'e Stoudemire and even Anthony in alternating contexts.

Lin may still not be dependable enough as a player to be declared a savior, but in light of the Knicks spending themselves into a corner and the lack of alternatives, he'll have to come to resemble one. 

Yet, if Lin comes up short in any conceivable way next season—or if Woodson trusts (and plays) Kidd more than Lin on-face—New York is in for a long campaign of offensive stagnation.

Kidd can start if that's what he deems important, and I'm sure he'll be on the floor to finish some games, either initiating the offense or playing alongside Lin. But the more playing time Woodson can allocate to his young guard the better, provided he isn't run into the ground out of desperation as he was last season.

With the right lineup management, Kidd can be a nice safety net to fill out the minutes at the point while Lin continues to shine. With the wrong lineup management (or a drop-off in effectiveness from Lin), the Knicks will be running an ongoing experiment under cruel, unwavering spotlights.