Carmelo Anthony, the large intestine: the part of the body that completes the digestive process and whose primary output is waste, without returning anything really productive back to the body.
Amare Stoudemire, the appendix: the organ that appears to have a purpose, but once it causes you enough pain, you realize you actually never needed it to begin with and have it surgically removed.
Jeremy Lin, the heart: inspiring a previously lifeless corpse into a living and breathing entity.
So the question that everyone has been asking is: how long can the heart of the Knicks continue pumping out greatness?
Along with that question, I have several other questions that have gone through my head over the last week:
- At which point will I cease to have to hear every word starting with “in”, changed to start with “lin”?
- How many Asian girls would Lin pick up if he hung out on the UCLA campus for 1 hour? (at least he now has a place to bring them back to )
- When will my Facebook feed stop largely consisting of my Asian friends’ declarations of their Lin love?
But I digress.
The important matter at hand here is whether or not we think Jeremy Lin is a real budding star in the NBA, and where we believe his career will eventually land. To understand this, we must first review the J-Lin pedigree.
First, there are the accolades. In high school, Lin led his team to a 32-1 record while being voted the Division II Northern California Player of the Year. Many surmise that Lin was not more heavily recruited because of the “Asian Men Can’t Jump” mentality (exacerbated by folks like Jason Whitlock, who believe they must not be very good in the sack either). Ethnicity aside however, Lin made it to Harward where he quickly ascended to All-Ivy First Team status while setting a Harvard record for wins in his senior year. Lin was also a Wooden finalist entering that year.
Beyond the awards and accolades however, what is most glaring about Lin’s resume are the numerous examples of performing his best against the stiffest competition. While in high school, his Palo Alto High School team won the state title by beating a heavily favored national powerhouse, Mater Dei. Later, at Harvard, he consistently progressed upward, registering some of his best performances against top rated talent. He broke out on the national stage with a dominating performance against top 20 Boston College, his first game against a high caliber team. He later followed that brilliant effort with a senior year performance against future national champs UConn, scoring 30 points while outplaying Husky star Kemba Walker. In perhaps the greatest foreshadowing of things to come, Lin outplayed 1st overall pick John Wall in an early 2010 summer league game. Time and again, Lin rose to the occasion when faced with a more well-known opponent.
What did all of this get Lin? A seat on the bench of the management-challenged Golden State Warriors. But even on the Warriors, there were glimpses of the Lin we see today. His average per 36 minutes with the Warriors was a respectable 10 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, and 1 block per game, demonstrating the well-rounded game that has most fans are only just beginning to observe. Lin was a clear fan favorite even then as well.
So where does that leave the NBA’s first Asian American male today? Sure, we know all the stats, the record breaking first 7 games, and the Knicks’ unblemished record. But what can we really expect from him once the (ok, I’ll succumb to the pressure) “linsanity” dies down?
Here’s what we know from a basketball perspective:
- He has a great sense for the game that is difficult to teach. He has a Nash-like quality of being able to pick apart a defense, and pull himself out to find the open man.
- His jump shot is a work in progress. He has shown flashes of potential but is still rough around the edges
- Opponents still seem to underestimate him. The Lakers never seemed to truly take him seriously, and many defenders have played off of him.
- He has leadership qualities and a certain level of fearlessness that are a necessity as a starting point guard.
- He has a surprisingly good basketball body, standing at 6’3” and a healthy 200 pounds.
But there are some questions as well. It is likely that some portion of Lin’s performance may be credited to a (1) stat-friendly Mike D’Antoni offense, and (2) the missing vacuums known as Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. In addition, there is no doubt that some of the history-making achieved by Lin thus far has been adrenaline fueled – lightning in a bottle captured during a unique period of time. This is a fact even Lin would readily admit to.
So what’s the prognosis?
Jeremy Lin will be a very serviceable player, but not a star. He will put up stats as long as he is with D’Antoni (which, given the Knicks’ performance so far this year, may not be forever), but those stats will also necessarily fall as New York returns to full health. As the scouting report continues to develop on Lin as well, anticipate defenses to tighten and the holes that exist today become less prevalent. Lin’s projected stat line? This writer is guessing around 12 points, 7 assists, and 4 boards per game. Again, solid, but not great.
In the end, even if Lin is able to achieve this modest output however, his career for what it was to what it will be can only be considered a success.