Blueprint for NY Knicks to Shut Down Jeremy Lin
The New York Knicks visit the Houston Rockets tonight, and it's going to be a very emotional game. It will be their reunion with point guard Jeremy Lin, who broke out in New York over a nine-game stretch last season before signing with the Houston Rockets over the summer.
Lin has gotten off to a slow start in 2012-13, averaging just 10 points and 6.3 assists over 12 games. His offensive game is marred by inconsistency, and he is shooting just 33 percent from the field.
The numbers may be low, but the Knicks still cannot afford to take Lin lightly. They have seen firsthand what he can do on a good night. This is the same player who scored 38 points against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, so being cocky in defending him is the last thing New York can afford to do.
Thus, one of the Knicks' top priorities on defense tonight should be as follows: shut down Jeremy Lin. As a speedy and determined point guard, there's no telling how much damage he can do if his shots start falling and he suddenly reverts to Linsanity form.
So long as certain defensive measures are implemented, then shutting the Harvard grad down should be easy as pie.
Though I've never had to deal with it on a regular basis, I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for players who get frequently double-teamed. It clearly makes playing the game and reading an offense harder, and thus leads to mistakes.
The Knicks need to employ this very strategy on Lin, taking advantage of his inexperience running the point and forcing him to commit turnovers. This shouldn't be difficult, as Lin is currently averaging nearly three per game. Plus, turning the ball over has always been a major flaw to his game.
It's going to leave a Houston man open, but it is absolutely critical that the Knicks employ the double-team on Lin if the game is close. Defense is the name of their game now, and Lin is bound to make a mistake if highly pressured by two players at the same time.
Have Jason Kidd Guard Him
Back when the Knicks were still ready to match any offer Lin received in restricted free agency, veteran point man Jason Kidd stated that mentoring the young point guard played a role in his choosing to come to New York. Now that both men are on opposing teams, Kidd has a chance to use his experience to his and his team's advantage.
Kidd has been starting at shooting guard while Iman Shumpert works his way back from major knee surgery, and his work on defense has been incredible. He is currently fifth in the league in steals, averaging 2.1 a game, and knows a lot more than Lin does about playing in the NBA.
Mike Woodson should thus have the veteran and future Hall of Famer guard Lin every few possessions, when the double-team is not in effect. Kidd's 18 NBA seasons provide him with plenty of experience playing against young floor generals like the Harvard grad, and having him play tough defense tonight will let Lin know that he still has a lot to learn about running an offense.
Use Quick Ball Movement
The one good thing Jeremy Lin has done this season is play defense. Despite his offensive struggles, he has averaged 1.9 steals per game and been a remarkable pest.
The Knicks need to be wary of this and make sure that Lin does not get too close while he is on defense. Raymond Felton needs to continue doing the fine work at the point that he has done all season long and be ready to dish the ball to a teammate the moment he passes halfcourt, if necessary.
Granted, Lin probably won't be playing lockdown, full pressure defense all evening long, but the further away from the ball he is, the better. The Knicks need to employ an almost Princeton-like offense, moving the ball quickly and constantly not only to keep Lin away, but to create confusion on Houston's end and ultimately wind up with one man open.
Take Lin out of the game on both sides of the floor, and the Knicks' mission will be fully accomplished.
Make Him Use His Jump Shot
No, that is not a basketball-themed pizza, ladies and gentlemen. This picture to the left is actually Jeremy Lin's shot chart for all of this season. As can be seen, most of his field-goal attempts have been taken from inside the paint, and the conversion percentage is decent.
Outside of the paint, it is clear what Lin's problem is. For some reason or another, he is not as confident in his jump shot as he was last season and thus isn't using it as frequently.
The fact that he is not continuing to take jumper after jumper in hopes that he'll find his groove and overly relying on driving the lane and drawing fouls isn't helping either. Lin's offensive preferences have become predictable, so it's only a matter of time before opposing teams pick up on it.
Thus, the Knicks need to keep Lin out of the paint for two reasons. First, letting him in will increase the likelihood of a foul being drawn, and the Knicks cannot afford to let a key defender like Tyson Chandler or even Carmelo Anthony get into foul trouble.
Second, Lin's confidence is clearly low outside of the key. Why not force him to play there, when the shots he puts up might not be his best?
It's an odd idea that could very well backfire if Lin suddenly gets a hot hand going tonight, but it's a risk that needs to be taken.
Employ Full-Court Pressure from the Opening Tip
Allow me to take you back to last season, when the Knicks played the Miami Heat on February 23. The Knicks were coming off a stretch in which they had won nine of 11 games on the back of Lin, and fans were excited to see how the team would fare with this new offense in a game against the dangerous Miami Heat.
Unfortunately for Lin and the Knicks, Miami had an answer. By employing the full-court press throughout the game, even early in the first quarter, the Heat were able to take Lin out of the game completely. He shot just 1-of-11 from the field that night, scoring eight points and dishing out only three assists while turning the ball over eight times.
Mike Woodson should thus have his players watch tape of this game before tipoff tonight, if he hasn't done so already. Lin clearly cannot handle pressure up close, especially in the backcourt. He is not used to playing such a slowed-down game, and the mistakes he made against Miami and in general show that.
The Knicks already play a slow game to begin with, so it is imperative that they not be afraid to use a full-court press every so often just to keep Lin in check. It doesn't have to be every play, but it would be wise of them to constantly remind the young point guard that he's going to play the game their way—whether he likes it or not.
Fortunately for the Knicks, this will likely lead to Lin committing plenty of turnovers and creating plenty of scoring opportunities for them. It's an odd approach, but it can clearly work and be the recipe for victory.