Blog Entry

Let the great Lin debate begin

Posted on: February 12, 2012 12:51 am
Edited on: February 12, 2012 1:19 am
Jeremy Lin was just 8-24 from the field Saturday but still got the win. (Getty Images)
By Matt Moore 

And now the fun part begins. Jeremy Lin is no longer undeniable nor deniable after the Knicks100-98 win over the Timberwolves. Let me take you down the road of point/counterpoint that will be hashed and re-hashed over the next 48 hours.

"Lin got the win, that's all that matters."

"Lin was inefficient and missed 14 shots from the field."

"Lin managed to pull 20 points and 8 assists while playing a quality defensive team surrounded by Tyson Chandler, Steve Novak, and Landry Fields as his best weapons."

"A good story doesn't erase a poor game."

"It was the Knicks' third game in four nights, and a back-to-back. The kid has logged long minutes. Everyone gets tired this year."

"It was against the 13-15 Timberwolves." 

"The Wolves are 15th in efficiency differential (12th in defensive efficiency), were above .500 before the Kevin Love suspension. And didn't the win over the Lakers kill the 'strength of schedule' argument?"

"The defense figured him out in the second half."

"Not enough."

And both sides are correct. It was not a great performance by Lin, but it was enough to help the Knicks win. It was inefficient, but highly productive. Lin made some poor plays, and some brilliant ones. Lin is entering the next phase of what happens when you're a phenomenon. And while Lin is not worthy of being compared to the great players of this league, not even close, if we examine this five game stretch as a microcosm of how analysts, fans, and media react to polarizing players, this is the next evolution.

Good enough for the supporters to herald, poor enough for the backlash to begin. Did he win the game, even when he hit the game-winning free throw, or was it defense and poor execution by Minnesota late that kept the Knicks' Linning streak alive? Did he struggle because he was exhausted from hoisting a team without Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, half their payroll, and on a back-to-back, third-in-four? Or was it Minnesota figuring him out?

The debate will rage. His supporters are validated by the simplified 20-8-6-3 line and a win, the backlash buoyed by his turnovers and shooting percentage. And the answer lies in the middle.

Lin was clearly exhausted, as the elevation on his second-half shots reveals. He would land and take longer to recover to his feet. He looked winded, he drifted to the edges at times, and admitted after the game everyone was tired.

But Lin also admitted that the Timberwolves did a good job defending him. And they did. It's been no secret since Lin's first explosive performance that the key is forcing him left. Lin is notably weaker with his left, and in fact, the Wolves shaded him constantly to his left. When Lin attempted to move right in the pick and roll, a second defender would pop to the elbow to drive him back left.

That said, Lin missed several very makeable shots going to his left, including a floater over Nikola Pekovic and a bank shot over Love. Pekovic may have been the biggest difference maker. Not only did he challenge Lin at the rim, but he managed to keep with him laterally without fouling. Most teams don't have a defender of that quality (speaking of players who came out of nowhere), but it does show that Lin is more than mortal.

And yet.

Lin also forced several possessions, often getting into the air and trying to finish with floaters over three defenders instead of passing out to a wide-open corner man, which he has done so much during this streak. Some of that is exhaustion wearing on his decision-making. Some of it is just forcing it.

Do we need to make excuses, though? Hasn't Lin already proved himself, especially since he had a poor game by the new established standards for him and still won the game with 20 points and 8 rebounds? Should we hold him to a higher standard, considering what should be lowered expectations?

It's too late for all that. This thing has taken on a life of its own. And you have to wonder if that was the real difference against Minnesota. The Knicks played well defensively. They got some breaks. Lin was productive but not efficient. But as much as I try and boil things down to metrics and plays and X's and O's, it's hard to watch this game and not walk away with a simple conclusion.

Some things can't be stopped. And while the rollercoaster has to end sometime, right now? Nothing has been able to stop Linsanity. Minnesota is just the latest to experience it.

Since: Dec 23, 2007
Posted on: February 12, 2012 8:41 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

ha the nba gangstas are going to have to give up some dollars to a non gang member.. jalen rose must be at the bar pounding drinks again at that thought..

Since: Mar 24, 2008
Posted on: February 12, 2012 8:24 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

Part of Lin's impact has been throwing himself 110% into every play, offense and defense, which has rubbed off on his teammates.  It's wonderful to watch, but I worry that he's going to have a short career if he doesn't learn to start conserving energy.  If he blows out a wheel on one of these speedy, exhausted drives to the hoop, his career (and the knicks' season) is in deep doo-doo.

Since: Oct 27, 2006
Posted on: February 12, 2012 8:15 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

this is what the media does- it builds people up so it can then tear them down.
columnists who regularly write lazy columns trying to make a story out of a guy having a slightly off game when his team still wins.

give the guy a break. 10 days ago 5 people in new york knew who he everyone in the biggest city in the country with the biggest media spotlight is expecting him to deliver every night...thats a lot of pressure, so its natural if the guy is going to struggle with reality vs expectations until he has more games under his belt and can totally settle down.

meanwhile, the media totally ignores the great story of the Philadelphia 76er's, with no stars, but a true team like we rarely see in the NBA anymore, being in first place in the division.

Since: Nov 15, 2008
Posted on: February 12, 2012 8:01 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

Debate? Is this article a joke? He had a bad half and still got to the basket for the winning ft. Great debate, 5 wins no losses, the kid is allowed to have a poor night. Which btw included 20 pts and 8 assists. Seriously the worst article I think I have seen CBS throw up there..

Since: Dec 30, 2006
Posted on: February 12, 2012 7:13 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

More accurate would be to point out they're percentages. Kobe missed 18 shots, but he had a better fg percentage than Lin did vs Minnesota. Your supposed to look at the percentage kid
He is shooting .496 on the year which is probably top 5 among guards in the NBA. He also shot the same FG% in his what some of these people say is such a bad game as Ricky Rubio (5-15) The same people call Rubio the next big thing at PG, though Rubio was beat on the boards 6-2. Lin played rubio ever bit as good as vice versa. Yet only thiing said is how great Rubio's Def was. Both had 8 ast and 3 steals. Lin had more TO's but also had 8 more points

Since: Jan 25, 2008
Posted on: February 12, 2012 7:11 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

Why is there a debate??? The guy is good. Give him his props and let the man enjoy his career.

Since: Feb 12, 2012
Posted on: February 12, 2012 6:59 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

He has had 5 straight games with 20+ points.  He dropped 38 vs the Lakers even with double teams comings from Bynum and Gasol.  Even Bryant was asked to guard Lin...and he still dropped 38.  He was tired tonight, for sure.  But he still led the Knicks to a 5th straight win.  If a 20 point night with 8 assists and 6 rebounds is 'coming down to earth' I'm okay with that and so are the Knicks, I'm sure.  First High School player of the year in the State of California to never get a D1 scholarship.  Can you believe it?  He deserves all of this right now.  Everyone needs to know they were wrong about passing on him from the NCAA to the NBA...Lin is for real and he should be the staring PG the rest of the way and years to come for the Knicks.

Since: Dec 25, 2009
Posted on: February 12, 2012 6:37 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

Plenty of white boys or other non blacks get good minutes in the NBA. I would give examples but from your post i can tell you won't accept the facts. so whatever.

Since: Feb 3, 2007
Posted on: February 12, 2012 6:32 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

Knicks  went from a 8-15 team to 13-15 in a week, with this kid leading the way.  You say New York fans are over hyped, I dont blame them. Too early to tell if he is an All-Star but not to early to say he is the reason the Knicks have become a factor even with two of their stars on the bench. I have always benn amused when Kobe goes 10-29 and the headline reads Kobe scores 30 points and leads the Lakers to a win. Who else on the current starting line up for the Knicks do you want missing 14 field goals. I say, let the kid shoot and good things will happen. Not a Knicks fan or a Kobe hater, just love watching good basketball play from a kid who is humble and glad for the chance. With the football and basketball games. NY had a great week.

Since: Feb 2, 2012
Posted on: February 12, 2012 6:30 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

"he made then go ahead free throw too". Really aznnp77 ?? He was one of 2 at the line at the most crucial moment of the game, and your pointing this out as a positive. In other words, your giving him credit for not missing both of his free throws? Pretty sad

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