Just before the All-Star break, New York Knicks starting guard Jeremy Lin was living the plotline of a Disney movie; an obscure former Harvard player who had already been cut by two teams this season, is put into a game out of desperation against the New Jersey Nets and knocks down a career high 23 points to lead New York to the win. Knicks bench boss Mike D’Antoni inserts him into the starting lineup in the club’s next game, and a star was born. Lin would go on to carry his squad to a seven game winning streak, even outscoring Kobe Bryant when he dropped 38 points in a win over the Lakers.
The 23-year-old native of Palo Alto becomes a literal overnight sensation, winning the hearts of sports fans not only in New York, but around the planet. Chinese-Americans as well as citizens of the People’s Republic of China, laud him as a hero and inspiration as he is the first USA born player of Chinese descent to play in the Association. NBA Commissioner David Stern as well as the nation’s number one hoops fan, President Obama praised him and what he had accomplished. The second-year player even was the cover story on “Time Magazine“, a true sign that he has captured the country’s attention. One of his teammates told reporters that he was the Knicks version of “Rudy.”
If Lin were truly a character in a movie, the team from New York would have won the rest of their games during the balance of the regular season, swept through the Playoffs and captured the Knicks first NBA Championship since the Willis Reed and Walt Frazier era. The last scene of the film would have been Lin and his gorgeous fiancée, who he met after he got famous would be at the Basketball Hall Of Fame, where Lin in an unprecedented move, would become an immediate inductee in their next ceremony.
Unfortunately, life is not the same as the plotline of a movie and reality crashed down on the Knicks when they traveled to Miami, to take on the Heat just before the break. The Heat had decided to make shutting down the New York point guard their mission in that game and they were successful, as Lin scored just eight points as Miami crushed his team 102-88.
It was is the air had been let out of a balloon, as the magic that had surrounded Lin suddenly dissipated. He did not have a good performance in the “Rising Stars” game that was held on All-Star weekend, but had a good game in the team’s first game after the break as he recorded a double-double with 19 points, as New York topped Cleveland 120-103. The team would not go on another winning streak however, as they lost to the Celtics in overtime and then fell to the Mavericks Tuesday night 95-85. Lin had solid games in both losses, scoring 14 points in both games; but the player who had dominated opposing teams was gone. “Linsanity” had vanished and his presence in the media faded away as quickly as it started.
So what turned Jeremy Lin from the Association’s “Golden Child” to just another solid starting point guard in the NBA? There are a number of factors as to why Lin suddenly lost his mojo, and why rumors are starting to circulate that he may be soon replaced as the starter by veteran Baron Davis.
The most obvious theory, is that his remarkable streak could not go on forever. Perhaps every General Manager in the Association should be kicking themselves now that they did not draft him, but he never displayed this kind of talent at any lower level. Lin was simply in the zone, running on adrenaline; which would suddenly stop after the loss to the Heat. Another reason could be the return of Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks lineup, which may have broken up the chemistry that had developed on the squad while sidelined with an injury.
Another possibility could be the lack of film on the Knicks point guard as he took the Association by storm. Now that he has played enough games, teams have a reservoir of information that they had previously lacked. The loss to Miami, also showed teams the blue print to shutting him down and clubs are paying heed.
What is the future for Jeremy Lin in the NBA? Truly hard to say at this point; can he make the adjustments in his game to counter the defense other squads are now using against him? Can he be the focus of the Knicks offense as he was before Anthony returned? He has shown what he is capable of; the question now becomes can he sustain it long-term? We shall find out that answer in the coming weeks.