The Legend of Lin Continues to Grow
The hype and hyperbole surrounding Jeremy Lin had reached a fever pitch heading into the Knicks Friday night’s nationally televised match-up with the Los Angeles Lakers. And then the strangest thing happened: Lin somehow actually exceeded expectations.
In a jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring performance in prime time, Lin out-dueled Kobe Bryant and carried the Knicks to an improbable fourth straight victory. Playing without superstars forwards Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, Lin put the Knicks on his back and poured in a career-high (and game-high) 38 points, while dishing out seven assists and grabbing four rebounds.
This from a guy who has was cut by two different teams earlier this season, and was playing for the Erie Bayhawks of the NBDL just a couple of weeks ago.
Now he is the talk of New York and the basketball universe.
How about these stats to help put all of this into historical perspective: Lin has scored 89 points in his first three NBA starts. Per ESPN Stats and Info, that’s the most by anyone in his first three career starts as a pro since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77.
And Lin now has had four straight games of at least 20 points and seven assists. Per Elias, the only other player to have a streak of that length this season is LeBron James.
One of the key reasons for Lin’s success has been his ability to penetrate into the paint at will. He refuses to give up his dribble, which is the mark of many great point guards. Despite going up against JaVale McGee on Wednesday and charging into both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum on Friday, Lin has consistently found a way to get to the rim and make plays. Once again, Lin had five fields goals “at the rim” versus the Lakers; his fourth straight.
Lin is now averaging 7.4 field goal attempts at the rim per 40-minutes this season. That’s an incredibly high number for a PG.
And here are the current NBA PER rankings, through games played 2/8/12: 1) LeBron James 2) Jeremy Lin 3) Kevin Durant 4) Chris Paul 5) Dwayne Wade 6) Kevin Love 7) Dwight Howard 8. Kobe Bryant.
One last stat: The NBA leader in “And-1′s” per 40-minutes? Yup, you guessed it, Jeremy Lin. Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin rank 3rd and 4th, respectively.
After the curtain closed on another virtuoso performance, all anybody wanted to talk about was the new point guard prodigy.
“The level he’s playing at, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Jared Jeffries said.
Tyson Chandler wanted it to be known that this is not a stroke of luck. “This is NOT a fluke.”
Fellow backcourt mate, Landry Fields concurred with Chandler’s belief that this kid is the real deal. “The surprising factor is gone. Now it’s just — it’s incredible. I really can’t describe it. I hope he does this the rest of his career,” said Fields. “It’s something I’ve never seen in my career. I’m just happy to be a part of it, happy he is on my team.”
From the opposing locker room, Kobe Bryant was a bit humbled (well, as humble as Kobe can be) in defeat. Bryant, who comically dismissed Lin when questioned by the media on Thursday night, praised Lin’s performance: “I think it’s a great story,” Bryant said. “It’s a testament to perseverance and hard work, and I think a good example for kids everywhere.”
Head Coach Mike D’Antoni, who some NY tabloids had claimed would be fired if his team lost to the Nets last Saturday night, was left nearly speechless, like many who had just witnessed what happened. “What he’s doing is amazing. It’s not often that a guy for four games plays the best in the league or as good as you’re going to see, and over on the sideline, nobody knows who he is. That’s hard to do,” said D’Antoni.
“This is a once in a lifetime thing.” D’Antoni said shaking his head.
Do Not Discount the Defense:
Lost in the Lin hype, the Knicks team defense once again was vital in the team’s success on Friday. New York held the Lakers to just 85 points on 37.5% shooting from the field. It was the fifth straight game the Knicks had given up less than 94 points to their opponent.
Jared Jefferies, who is fourth in the league in charges drawn per game, did an outstanding job defensively, as he was assigned with slowing down Pau Gasol. Jeffries also did solid job helping off his man when necessary to help run double-teams at Kobe.
Still the star of the show defensively was, to no one’s surprise, center Tyson Chandler. Chandler snuffed out big man Andrew Bynum at every turn, holding the Lakers low-post threat to just three points on 1-of-8 shooting.
Lin is obviously the story, but the defensive contributions of Jefferies and Chandler have been essential to this current four-game winning streak.
The “Nerd Handshake” explained:
After praising the “inspirational” play of Lin, Landry Fields took a few moments after the game to explain the choreographed handshake he and Lin execute before the opening tip – the video of which has gone viral these last few days.
When asked when they first started it, Fields responded: “I think it was after his first start. I was like ‘Hey man, we gotta do something because everybody was talking about this Stanford and Harvard stuff.’ So we just wanted to go out there and do something that was lighthearted and not too serious.”
Landry continued: “We just kind of came up with to together. We actually switched it up a little bit tonight. The switch is we put our glasses on before. Also, it’s not a textbook or anything, it’s a Bible because at the end of the day, that’s what we’re playing for. And that’s why we point up (towards the sky) at the end.”
Fields was also asked if he would start charging Jeremy rent, as Lin had been crashing on Landry’s couch recently. “Oh no, absolutely not. That’s his couch, he can take it wherever he wants. I don’t even sit on that couch anymore. Sometimes I’ll just pull up a chair and sit beside it and watch TV,” said Fields.
The always-opinionated Metta World Peace chimes on the “Linsanity Phenomenon”
He has a completely different name, but Metta World Peace still speaks his mind exactly as he always has. He continues to give some of the most honest and interesting quotes in the NBA – and last night was no different.
When asked about Jeremy Lin, Metta explained that he was absolutely rooting for the Knicks new point guard, and that he had a very personal reason to do so. “I’m very happy for him (Lin). My son is Asian-American. I got three kids with my wife, who are Black-Americans. And I also have an Asian-American son and I hope my son is just like Jeremy Lin. Definitely,” said Peace.
“It’s great for my son to see that. He’s an inspiration to A LOT of people. You see how many Asian-Americans are playing basketball in America on the court. They all want to go to the NBA. Anytime I go to the sports clubs, I see a lot of Asian-Americans playing ball, but just don’t get that shot.”
When asked what position his 10-year old son plays, World Peace answered, “Defense! He plays defense. My kids don’t play defense, they are on punishment.”
“Lin is a role model. I want to meet that guy,” said Metta.
After the last four games, he’s not alone.