Jeremy Lin: New York Knicks PG Will Crumble with Added Pressure of Big Deal
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While Jeremy Lin will turn out to be a solid NBA guard, his new contract and mammoth expectations will quickly overshadow the shining moments from last year.
All good things must come to an end, and "Linsanity" is poised to become just another interesting historical NBA footnote. What's about to transpire this year will be one part production and two parts perception.
Regardless of your allegiance to the Knicks (or lack-thereof), we will all remember a dead-in-the-water team that rattled off a seven-game winning streak as soon as Lin was inserted into the lineup.
We'll look back on eleven games with 20 or more points scored, seven games with double-digit assists and what seems like countless game-winning plays. We'll never forget how the media went wild and we couldn't get enough Jeremy Lin highlights.
All while Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire watched from the bench.
Yet, that's not how it happened at all.
By the time most of us figured out who he was, the amazing part of the story was already fading. Lin was great because it was so unexpected.
His magical stretch as Gotham's super hero lasted for barely a month and a half. During that time, the Knicks only went 16-10. Most people don't remember a six-game losing streak during the "Linsanity" Period, or the fact that Jeremy had THIRTEEN games with five or more turnovers.
In fact, one could make the case that, since the Knicks went back to being a .500 ballclub after the initial seven-game winning streak, "Linsanity" actually only lasted for an 11-day stretch in early February.
The rest was fairly sane.
The team was certainly energized once 'Melo, Amar'e and Lin were all on the floor together, but the 8-8 record wasn't any more impressive than the stuff that got Mike D'Antoni fired. (Err..."resigned.")
That paltry 16-game sample size ended when Amar'e went down again and Lin was knocked out with his knee injury.
Of course, those who bring up these points are labeled as "haters" and dour cynics.
Reality says the tapes don't lie: Jeremy Lin is a talented and explosive guard who can shoot and pass at the NBA-level, while playing with a lot of confidence and a frenetic crowd behind him.
What are the variables there?
The confidence is already slightly tarnished. The Knicks took their time in re-signing Lin, and he's had an awkward dalliance with the Houston Rockets. New York is going to match the offer, and in coming back, Lin will know that the Knicks wanted him.
But only so much.
Because they wasted so much time, New York inadvertently drove Lin's price tag (and expectations) higher. His new contract, based largely on the perception of a 26-game stretch that was mostly shined by a seven-game period of time, will approach $30 million.
This whole process chipped away at Lin's confidence while actually stacking the deck further against him.
He's now returning to a more-talented roster that's added some veteran mentoring and reinforcements via Marcus Camby and Jason Kidd, but last year's problems remain.
This is a team built for Mike D'Antoni's offensive fireworks show, but who is now being run as a defense-first outfit under Mike Woodson.
The Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire engine never really clicked for either coach, and Jeremy Lin was not the spark-plug that ever got them running, contrary to popular belief.
Now, he's also returning from a knee injury, expected to general a team for a full 82-game season and win the starting job over one of the NBA's all-time greats.
Knicks fans were understandably, and laudably, enthusiastic supporters of Lin throughout his amazing run last February and March. He was the one bit of sunlight in what had otherwise been one of the more negative seasons in recent memory.
Yet, how long before they return to their cynical ways with this squad?
The payroll will be among the league's highest for at least the next four years, but is this roster clearly better than the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls or Indiana Pacers, much less the Miami Heat?
What happens when this team remains competitively in the middle of the pack? What about during the stretches that they falter?
What happens when Lin can't keep up the magic for an 82-game season? Remember, he couldn't keep the magic going for more than 26 games, or seven, depending on how you want to quantify the "Linsanity" Period.
Ask Mark Sanchez, Eli Manning, Amar'e or Carmelo how long it takes for New York fans to remove the golden-boy tag. (Though, to their credit, they'll re-apply it just as quickly.)
Jeremy Lin has a talented supporting cast, a great veteran mentor to learn from and a fan base that desperately wants to see him succeed. There's every reason why he should be solid enough next year.
If the team really wanted to ensure his success, they'd let the steady Jason Kidd play the first six to eight minutes of each half, then bring Lin off the bench. As a second-unit energizer with J.R. Smith and Steve Novak, Lin would get to play against the opponent's lesser players while also not having to constantly worry about keeping Stoudemire and Anthony fed.
Yet, that's not going to happen for a guy who's about to get paid the average of $10 million per year. Now he's expected to do so much more.
Confidence and crowd support are two fast-fleeting variables when you're young and playing in New York City. Unfortunately, when Lin's production can't match expectations, perception will drag things down further.
Jeremy Lin and the Knicks roster won't be that much different than last year, but his contract will be different and so will we.
During the 2013 season, Jeremy Lin will be...
Be prepared for plenty of "What's Wrong with Lin?" stories next season, even though the box score and win column might tell a story that's different, and yet largely the same.
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