The hottest name in sports right now is Jeremy Lin, and for the most part all of the hype has been warranted.
Lin has revitalized basketball in New York, leading the Knicks to five straight wins after the team struggled to start the season 8-15. Particularly disappointing was the team’s guard play over those first 23 games, but Lin has stabilized the backcourt, racking up averages of 26.8 points and 8 assists per game.
As Jon Washburn wrote, there are very valid reasons to believe Lin can keep this incredible train rolling.
I think, however, that are some very valid reasons Jeremy Lin will not continue his dominance over the rest of the league from the point guard position.
Why Jeremy Lin Will Not Sustain This Level Of Play
Don’t get me wrong – I’m rooting for Lin. His story is inspiring, impressive, and just plain fun. The guy is clearly very intelligent, very talented, and is exactly the type of player for which I root (and it has nothing to do with his ethnicity or faith, which will not be further mentioned at all in this post).
When an underdog captures America’s hearts, it’s a magical thing. I just don’t see this continuing – at least to this magnitude – long term.
#1 – Mike D’Antoni’s future in New York
For D’Antoni – maybe more than any other coach – a point guard with great vision, high basketball IQ, and the ability to score when given an opening is a necessity.
As we have seen (and as Jon pointed out better than anyone else I’ve seen), Lin has executed D’Antoni’s pick and roll beautifully. He makes the right decision almost every time, and he has the speed, craftiness, and finishing ability to make the defense pay when they over-commit to helping off the ball or switching a big onto Lin.
That is the way D’Antoni’s system was designed, and now it is being run nearly to perfection just like during all of those successful seasons in Phoenix with Steve Nash quarterbacking the offense.
The problem here is that I don’t think D’Antoni will last in New York past this season. I’ve long maintained that D’Antoni won’t be able to win in the postseason because his teams don’t put emphasis on defense, and until someone proves the cliché wrong, defense still determines who wins in June.
Unfortunately for D’Antoni, Lin’s emergence has raised expectations for a Knicks team that was in danger of being a bottom-5 team in the league this year. Now, anything less than a playoff berth – and possibly a series win – could cost D’Antoni his job. Perhaps no fan base is as desperate for a winner, and now Knicks fans believe that this team can compete for a championship.
I know that sounds like an irrational leap of faith after 5 games of “Linsanity,” but the culture of sports fans in New York is not one of rationality.
I just don’t see the Knicks being able to do much more than grab an 8-seed in the playoffs. Unless they conjure up some magic like they did in the 1999 playoffs (in a similarly lockout-shortened season), I don’t think that will be enough for D’Antoni to survive in New York.
D’Antoni is the perfect coach for Jeremy Lin. If D’Antoni gets fired, I think it sets Lin back. Sadly, what could be a dynamic player-coach pairing might not ever get the chance to fully mature into the massively entertaining show it has the potential to be.