Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Some Additional Thoughts About Jeremy Lin. (Yeah, I know, he’s been covered seven ways from Sunday, but indulge me.)

What if I told you the Knicks would be without Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Baron Davis, and for most of the night, Tyson Chandler and they’d win?

What if I told you their leading scorers would include Steve Novak, Jared Jeffries and Bill Walker and they’d win?

What if I told you the catalyst for this seemingly impossible concoction would be an un-drafted, Taiwanese-American, 2nd-year point guard from Harvard of all places who spent the weekend crashing on his teammate’s couch and possessed a total of zero starts and 39 career games played entering the evening?

What if I told you that on Monday, this international man of mystery would net 28 points on 10-17 shooting and hand out 8 assists to lead the ‘Bockers to consecutive wins for the first time since January while also miraculously being thrust forward as the centerpiece of Monday’s ad campaign by MSG’s Don Drapers?

Lin-sanity, you’d say!

Indeed. It sounds like the beginning of a pitch for a fairly tired sports film. Luckily for the Knickerbockers, the above isn’t my take on a hoops-centric remake of “Damn Yankees,” it actually happened! Out of nowhere, the team’s season-long point guard issues actually appear to have been solved by one Jeremy Lin, who was recently showing off his skills for the Erie Bayhawks of the NBA Development League.

Stories like this one are the reason fans devote so much time, money and emotional currency to sports. In many or even most facets of life, unlike Hollywood, the good guys don’t win and David doesn’t sling the rock that bops Goliath.  Most people don’t even get the chance to play David or Goliath. Far more often that not, rather than an epic, Manichean struggle, one’s life is filled with half-measures, unsolvable or inscrutable problems, maddening inconsistencies and vast shades of grey.

So when a player like Jeremy Lin bursts on to the scene, each foray to the rim a whirling dervish of effort and improbability, and actually vanquishes seemingly far more powerful foes even though, as an extra added burden, he’s surrounded by the Knicks lesser (to say the least) offensive lights, well…one cannot help but feel as though his victory is truly ours, that he is we, finally acting with bravado where we had been timid, rising from obscurity and seizing center stage to become the city’s latest darling.

Heck, gushing adoration of the underdog is practically a requirement for citizenship in the nation of New York City. By any statistical or anecdotal measure, making it in this town is darned tough. So when a John Starks or a Victor Cruz actually does overcome the overwhelming odds, it’s a straight shot to the heartstrings of every New Yorker trying to scrap and claw their way to the top. Not that one isn’t thrilled to death when Carmelo or Amar’e drain the game-winning shot, it just doesn’t have the same oomph as when Jeremy Lin nails an off-balance three with the shot clock running down. If only because one, the former is expected and two, while a child can closely identify with a great player, as an adult, our limitations seem fairly set in stone, and seeing a star player’s exploits as a paradigm or emblematic of our own mundane, daily endeavors becomes a far more daunting proposition.

We don’t know how the rest of this tale will unfold. Given the incredibly limited sample size, it’s unlikely that Jeremy Lin will continue to dazzle. For now, it’s enough to bask in the comforting warmth of hope that his seemingly boundless potential provides.

As my esteemed colleague Jim Cavan put it:

 “At this point, if Jeremy Lin turned wine into bread and walked on fish, I wouldn’t be surprised. If Barack Obama named him Secretary of the Lin-terior — a completely new cabinet position wherein he’d just be paid to show up and smile, that wouldn’t surprise me. If next week he eloped with MSG’s Tina Cervasio that wouldn’t surprise me either. Whether he “crashes and burns,” “comes back down to earth,” or “regresses to the mean” — all common mantras from Twitterati haters of late — is, at this point, almost irrelevant. The kid has something special.

That is special, indeed.

23 comments on “Some Additional Thoughts About Jeremy Lin. (Yeah, I know, he’s been covered seven ways from Sunday, but indulge me.)

  1. Jim Cavan

    Bravo, Bobby.

    Strange, isn’t it, how a franchise mired at many points past in an obsession over signing stars and scorers suddenly has this guy fall into their lap. He may embody much of what the city itself exemplifies, but he’s the polar opposite of the stars our beloved team tends to shoot for.

  2. Gideon Zaga

    It’s funny how we root for the young players, or the players with weaknesses, the underdogs, we adore them, yet we have a love/ hate relationship with the stars. It’s the Jacob/ Esau argument. We make shump/ Lin/ fields t-shirts and we boo STAT/ Melo at the pubs. Hey but when much is given… much is expected.

  3. Frank

    Also, not sure if anyone else posted about this, but Larry Coon was asked in his chat today why he thinks Lin is an early bird guy and not a non-bird guy (as Brian suggested in his excellent post). His point was that Lin signed with GSW as a free agent before the 10-11 season, then was picked up off waivers by Houston and then again off waivers by the Knicks. Teams that claim a player off waivers also claim that player’s contract, which I guess include the Bird rights that go with it. So even though JLin is on his 3rd team, he never cleared waivers and so was never a free agent — his Bird clock kept ticking from team to team. Interesting stuff, and if he continues playing even 50% as well as he has been, this could have huge implications for the NYK going forward. If Coon is right and Brian is wrong (sorry Brian), we could potentially sign Lin and Fields with early bird rights, then get Nash with the MLE and another contributor with the biannual exception if we wanted to.

    Here are some links:

    https://webfiles.uci.edu/lcoon/cbafaq/salarycap.htm#Q56

    http://www.hoopsworld.com/salary-cap-chat-with-larry-coon-2812 (see the second question)

  4. d-mar

    Great job, Robert, the quality of these posts just continues to impress me (and I’m an English major lol)

    Under normal circumstances, losing your stars for a week or two can be a long term plus, as it can help the confidence of and give valuable experience to your bench guys, and we’re seeing some of the benefits of that already. Unfortunately, thanks to some horrendous losses early in the season, we just can’t afford to backslide anymore as far as wins and losses go. So somehow we have to figure out a way to win games we’re not supposed to (and yes, we’re 3 1/2 pt. underdogs to the Wiz tonight)

  5. danvt

    Bob,
    Your prose is truly Lin-esque, and I love reading it.

    When I was contemplating the Carmelo deal, my brother, no Cock Jowles mind you, but a savvy sports fan none the less said, “You can get another Gallo, or W Chandler.” I’m sure he was over rating Melo, but the thought is apropos at this time. NBA is all about value for the dollar. If we pay a lot for a guy he needs to be someone who’s skills can’t be replicated for 800K. Look at Tyson Chandler. You can’t find that impact in just any big body from the d-league. Similar, Melo’s lightning quick release from 15 feet away. But a good executive can find some nice little complementary pieces and these pieces can be instrumental in a teams success. So, maybe now that we’re starting to look like a real team we can start to move on with our lives.

  6. phreesh

    Am I alone in thinking that Carmelo isn’t fitting in?

    STAT and Melo create all sorts of problems for Knick play-calling. Moving Melo on for some nice chips and concentrating on STAT’s pick and roll (with Lin/Baron) seems to be the right move.

    I wonder about the impact this would have on signing future FAs – looking like d-bags for seeking him out and then turning our backs – but I think that would help the team.

  7. Frank

    phreesh:
    Am I alone in thinking that Carmelo isn’t fitting in?

    STAT and Melo create all sorts of problems for Knick play-calling. Moving Melo on for some nice chips and concentrating on STAT’s pick and roll (with Lin/Baron) seems to be the right move.

    I wonder about the impact this would have on signing future FAs – looking like d-bags for seeking him out and then turning our backs – but I think that would help the team.

    Not happening. We are going to have Melo-STAT-TC until after 2014-15 season, which is just fine by me. That is a pretty good core to put complementary pieces around. If Melo buys into the system, which he had already started to do before his injury, I think we will be just fine.

  8. Frank O.

    I’m having dinner with my wife outside the Verizon center and we’re headed into the game in about an hour. Section 101 row H. Can’t wait. My wife is crushed that Amare isn’t playing, but she’s Linspired.

  9. Brian Cronin

    His point was that Lin signed with GSW as a free agent before the 10-11 season, then was picked up off waivers by Houston and then again off waivers by the Knicks. Teams that claim a player off waivers also claim that player’s contract, which I guess include the Bird rights that go with it.

    That definitely occurred to me. Frank, but Coon says in his FAQ:

    If a player is waived and is claimed by another team before he clears waivers, then his Bird clock resets.

    So…huh?

    I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled if that is the case, but I don’t get it.

  10. sisterray

    Why hasn’t Obama issued a statement about Jeremy Lin yet?
    Lin’s awesomeness is clearly a matter of national importance; he deserves some recognition from the people who run this place, no?
    Could we start a petition or something?

  11. danvt

    phreesh: Am I alone in thinking that Carmelo isn’t fitting in?

    I mean, anyone is available for the right deal. So yes to D12 for Melo but no to Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw, right? Meanwhile, what we need is continuity right now, IMHO.

    I, also, really differ with those who think that players simply are what they are. I know, Stats tell a different story, but people into stats need to look at anomalies more often. Great teams come from a confluence of players having career years all at once. Yes, we need Melo to be demonstrably better than he’s been, but, no that’s not impossible. The knicks have gotten extraordinary contributions in the past couple of years from unlikely sources. Extra E, Fields, TD last year. Lin this year. Seems like Novak might be a real player. Jorts was picked up on round two and he might be a rotation player in the league. Not often, but, sometimes, guys outplay their bubble gum cards. It’s a GM’s job to find those guys and a coaches job to put them in the right situations. Stat and Melo need to play better D and pass the ball better. That may happen.

  12. max fisher-cohen

    really? Knicks @ wizards is on NBA TV? I swear, half the knicks games are blocked on League Pass…

  13. BahoPuwet

    Miami, FLORIDA—–Miami Herald:
    Published reports confirmed that Isiah Thomas, head coach of FIU Golden Panthers, claimed that he drafted Jeremy Lin for the NY Knicks. Furthermore, Isiah indicated that he mentored Lin personally during his point guard summer camp.

  14. Nick C.

    BahoPuwet:
    Miami, FLORIDA—–Miami Herald:
    Published reports confirmed that Isiah Thomas, head coach of FIU Golden Panthers, claimed that he drafted Jeremy Lin for the NY Knicks.Furthermore, Isiah indicated that he mentored Lin personally during his point guard summer camp.

    Good one

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