HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — When presented with the promise and global recognition of what might be and the sobering reality of what is, the New York Knicks made a choice. In fact, they made the right choice where last season’s point guard sensation, Jeremy Lin, was concerned by not keeping him in the fold.
Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton make it much easier to see that now, what with the quality work they have put in this season for the 18-5 Knicks, who welcome the star of the off-Broadway smash, Linsanity, back to Madison Square Garden tonight (7 ET, NBA TV) for the first time since Lin signed with the Houston Rockets as a free agent.
The Knicks chose veteran leadership and production over the charade that was the overnight sensation that Lin became during his breakout stretch of play. Don’t misunderstand us, though: Lin is a solid player, but not the folk hero he was played up to be during Linsanity. And as our man John Schuhmann points out, Houston’s offensive and defensive rating with Lin on the court is worse than it is without him on the court.
Kidd is a winner and arguably the most underrated athlete (in any sport) of his generation. Felton played some of the best basketball of his career in his first stint with the Knicks in their pre-Lin era. He’s picked up right where he left off this season by combining with Kidd to form one of the most potent backcourt duos in the league.
Lin, as expected, is going through some of the growing pains you might expect for a player whose starting experience as a point guard includes all of 48 games, a little more than half of an NBA season. There have even been rumblings about him being a backup in Houston in order to help ease his transition. Can you imagine the outrage if he was still in New York and someone was contemplating a move like that?
In fairness, Lin’s had his moments this season. He looked like the Lin of … well, Linsanity, when he exploded for 38 points and seven assists in a Dec. 10 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. But he did that while the Rockets’ best player, James Harden, was sidelined with a sprained ankle. Lin has a habit of playing his best when his team’s best player is wearing street clothes. Most of his best work with the Knicks came when Carmelo Anthony (as well as Amar’e Stoudemire) were not in the lineup.
On the flip side, Kidd and Felton play the same with or without the big dogs in the lineup. It’s the difference between having proven talent at the controls and a developmental prospect who might not be best suited as a full-time starter running your show.
That doesn’t mean that Lin deserves anything other than a rousing round of applause from the Knicks faithful tonight. He did provide weeks of cosmic pleasure for those fans and fans of an underdog story everywhere. His rise with the Knicks was easily the best story of the season and one of the best in recent pro sports history in this country.
As fleeting as it was, Linsanity was every bit as fun for the rest of us as it was surreal for Lin, who said he’s expecting things to be “wild” tonight.
And I agree with his former Knicks teammates, who believe Lin’s contributions to the resurgence of the franchise deserve to be appreciated on their own merit.
“He’s one of those guys people will remember for his time here,” Steve Novak told the New York Daily News. “It wasn’t a very long, long time, but it was special. There’ll be a movie about it one day.”
(There’s a certain famous filmmaker/Knicks superfan who could do the Linsanity story proper justice … paging Spike Lee!)
At this stage of his career, would you be more comfortable with Lin running your team or doing so with a promising young rookie like Portland’s Damian Lillard?
If you have to think about that for more than three seconds, it should be clear by now that the Knicks did the right thing!