Is Jeremy Lin Officially a One-Hit Wonder?
If only the song had remained the same.
Bright, bold and unmistakable, Linsanity—and its namesake, Jeremy Lin—were music to our eyes.
No advanced statistical analysis or merits-versus-deficiencies debates were needed to know we were watching a once-in-a-generation basketball phenomenon.
Nowadays, though, once a Houston Rockets contest is complete, it's often difficult to say whether Lin had a good game or a not-so-good one.
Case in point: Against the Utah Jazz on Jan. 28, Lin played 25 minutes and shot 5-of-5 for 12 points to go along with seven assists and three steals. That is the kind of efficient, effective game you expect from a solid, if unspectacular, point guard.
Lin followed that up by dropping 22 on the Denver Nuggets two days later, including 13 points and 5-of-7 shooting in the fourth quarter alone. During those last 12 minutes in Denver, Jeremy was the best player on the floor for either team.
But Lin only had five assists and one steal in 31 minutes.
Then comes Feb. 2 against the Charlotte Bobcats. Eight assists: terrific. Three steals: terrific. But just nine points on 4-of-10 shooting in 34 minutes.
Lin had 39 steals in the month of January, which led the NBA. He also had 54 turnovers, fifth-most in the NBA.
One year after Lin's breakout run of dominant games, we can probably all agree that what we're seeing right now is not Linsanity.
The question is, will it ever be Linsanity again?
Is Jeremy Lin a one-hit wonder?
Well, let's talk about one-hit wonders, because there are many kinds.
For example, you have James Blunt, who was inescapable in 2006 with "You're Beautiful" (though I always wondered, if he says "I've got a plan," then why does he also say "I don't know what to do?").
After his initial success, Blunt spent the majority of his time getting high on the island of Ibiza, which perhaps explains his soporific follow-ups. The world quickly and rightly stopped listening.
Translation to the NBA: one massive splash that makes the world sit up and take notice (Linsanity), followed by nothing that bears mentioning.
Is that Lin?
There is another kind of one-hit wonder. In 1991, Marc Cohn won a Grammy as Best New Artist on the heels of his hit song "Walking in Memphis." Cohn would never again hit the Billboard Top 40. But every one of his albums, from first track to last, are well-crafted, smooth-flowing, relentlessly enjoyable efforts—the kind you can take on a cross-country drive with you and never once press skip.
Translation to the NBA: one massive splash that makes the world take notice, followed by efforts that go unnoticed by the casual fan, but much appreciated by the true NBA fan.
Is that Lin?
Before we discuss the music, let's discuss the inevitable disclaimers that come up whenever Lin's game is analyzed.
I've said countless times in my columns that Lin has yet to start a full season's worth of games. Well, he's closing in on that full season now.
I've talked about how Lin had to change his game to fit James Harden's ball-handling style. True, but he's had plenty of time to adapt.
I've mentioned how he struggled with injury earlier in the season. OK, but there's no reason to believe he's hurt anymore.
It's easy to want to make excuses for Lin. He's such an inspirational story, such a positive person, such a talent when he gets it going.
What's more difficult is holding his feet to the fire.
Here's what I see. Though Lin has drastically reduced his turnovers from last season, he still struggles in this area. Moreover, his propensity for turnovers offsets his skill at forcing them: Lin has a 0.67 steals-to-turnovers ratio, good for 37th in the league.
As mentioned here many times, the humble Lin has worked in-season with a shooting coach…yet his shot still comes and goes. That's a serious concern.
As breathtaking as Lin can be on his Lamborghini-like drives to the hoop, his offensive game is largely one-dimensional. What would make me much happier than a Lin driving layup is a Lin 12-footer. The lane isn't always going to be open, but a dependable short-range jumper means Lin doesn't need to get to the lane to impact the game.
Another concern: Lin and Harden share an affinity and a skill for driving to the basket. Only one of them is able to consistently draw fouls, and it's not the one who's clean-shaven.
Last year, Lin drew seven free-throw attempts per 36 minutes. This year, he's drawing a comparatively anemic 3.3.
Drawing contact and calls is a physical art form in the NBA, and a necessity for an efficient player. If one wants to anoint Lin a master at the drive to the basket, one is also obliged to hold Lin accountable for drawing contact during those drives. He simply has not mastered that skill.
Even the most rabid Lin fan cannot rationally argue the point guard can be depended on for a consistent performance night in and night out. That's simply because at this point, he cannot be.
Back to the original question: Is Lin a one-hit wonder?
Right now? Yeah, he is. But my hope is he's the Kelly Clarkson kind.
"Huh?" you might ask. Clarkson's had a slew of hits. She's one of the dominant figures in pop music.
That's true. But in late 2003, Clarkson was perceived as a one-hit wonder.
The music world's equivalent of Jeremy Lin—humble, deferential, essentially coming out of nowhere and a stereotype-breaker (in her case, with her regular-girl rather than cover-girl looks)—Clarkson even named her first album Thankful.
But after her international chart-topper "Miss Independent," the next two songs off Clarkson's album tanked. Kelly was relegated to guest appearances on MADtv and some obscure NBC show called American Dreams.
It seemed her next stop would be the state fair tour, hooking up with Chumbawamba, Shawn Mullins and Baha Men.
Clarkson, however, did the musical equivalent of reinventing her game. Taking on her label and risking everything, she fired her management and took creative control of her career. She convinced some of the best songwriters in the business to collaborate with her, and changed her sound.
The result is the Kelly Clarkson you know: dependable pop hitmaker and multiple Grammy winner.
My point is, Jeremy Lin is too young, and still too fresh off his barnstorming Linsanity tour, to be called a one-hit wonder. But he desperately needs to reinvent himself.
How? He must add the dimension of consistent jump-shooting to his offensive game—which at least we know he's putting effort into doing. He must learn how to draw contact, and there's no one better from whom to learn than Harden himself. He must also make sure to pass crisply so as to avoid the too-frequent unforced turnovers.
One good game in an NBA season is the equivalent to one good line in a song. It doesn't make the whole song a hit. Too many Linatics reference one good game and consider it proof Lin is a superstar.
Come on. Kwame Brown had good nights. Even Darko Milicic has had good nights.
The reality is, superstars have good games night after night, season after season.
Moreover, a point guard is supposed to be the rock of the team, the guy everybody depends on. Right now, Jeremy isn't that guy.
Where is Jeremy Lin on the one-hit wonder scale?
He still has time, but the good will of Linsanity, his only true hit to date, recedes further and further into the rearview mirror with each passing game.
It's simply too early in Lin's career to say he's a one-hit wonder. At the same time, expecting another worldwide megahit like Linsanity is foolhardy.
If Lin commits to reinventing his game by adding the proposed dimensions, though, he can still help his team make sweet music.
He's got only until this offseason, where the Rockets will most likely look to improve the power forward position.
After that, they'll be looking for other areas to improve.
And at that point, Lin will have to face the music.
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