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: Mar 24, 2008
Posted on: February 12, 2012 10:22 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

good response, pjohnson, but I'm watching very closely, and I see Lin racing full speed from the 3-point line to try to grab a rebound when there are 2-3 7-footers there already.  Again, it's fun to watch, but there is wisdom in knowing your role and conserving energy for the things your team really needs you to do, like having your wits about you to make great decisions in the fourth quarter.  Lin is doing amazing things -- I'd like him to have a nice, long career doing amazing things.  He's a lot of fun to watch.  And no, I don't have a union job, that's just a bit of a stretch.

Since: Jan 25, 2008
Posted on: February 12, 2012 10:20 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

wrong. his dream school was UCLA. he went to Harvard when no california pac-10 schools (Cal, Stanford, UCLA) failed to show him any love.

Since: Jan 25, 2009
Posted on: February 12, 2012 10:03 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

Don't fall for this people....the media is trying to turn the Lin story into a "debate" ala tim tebow...the difference is that Lin actually plays well...

In the five games he is shooting 52% from the field, averaging 27 pts and 8 assists.  Funny that the guy writing this article points out his bad shooting night last night when today's players consistently throw up 40 shots to score 30 points but all that matters to the media is that they scored 30 points....Kobe consistently shoots 40-45% from the field but no one ever even mentions the attrocious shots he takes.

Since: Sep 25, 2009
Posted on: February 12, 2012 10:02 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

If you're forced to double the PG and third scorer on the team, that's not really figuring out how to stop him. When Melo and Stoudemire come back Lin should be able to routinely put up double digit assists...he already averages a very high assist total. CP3 can score but he generally tends to move the ball around instead, and that's what Lin will be doing too.

Since: Jan 30, 2008
Posted on: February 12, 2012 10:00 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

@Yip: If you knew anything anout Lin, then you would know he worked hard in California in order to get into Harvard. THAT WAS HIS GOAL.

Since: Sep 20, 2006
Posted on: February 12, 2012 9:45 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

Lin isn't fast. His rambles to the hoop and mid range jumpers are as much a product of the disinterested defense of non-playoff NBA games as his talent. He isn't a great shooter and turns the ball over.... 75% of the NBA fits that description. He hasn't played top tier teams in his brief streak of success, but he IS playing an NBA schedule. Lin was wonder. Lin hasn't played NBA minutes in entire games very often. He made bad many NBA games has he played ?  

Lin doesn't LOOK like the rest of the NBA though, an Asian man without wall-to-wall tatoos and gansta vibe. Lots of people are uncomfortable with that. He's playing without THE two, established "stars" of the team....think about that for a second... When either Stoudamire or Anthony played in similar circumstances, how often did THEY carry the team to a win ?  It will be interesting to see the Knicks perspective on Lin's role (and how Melo and Amar'e feel about Lin's role),  when they get back, and again when and if Baron Davis decides to "earn" a living in the NBA again.. Lin's done better in the role than anyone else so far, and looks like he has more tools, and motivation, than Baron Davis. 

Lin guy deserves a shot, and I'd say a bad game with a stat line like his, is desired by about 95% of the NBA, including the Knick "stars" that aren't on the court.    

Since: Sep 2, 2007
Posted on: February 12, 2012 9:32 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

Snegglish I hope you have nothing to do with sports if your idea of lengthening a career is to stop hustling. I hope to hell you are not watching with any impressionable young baller, because what you are saying is not team but individual. Individuals make money teams win. There still exists the seed of pure competition in sport, no matter how much it becomes dormant by the professional level. Take a step back and say, "Wow, great effort Lin, you gave your all to win." Not, "Wow, too much try in you Lin should have saved energy and lost, so you did not risk injury with your effort." I bet Snegglish has a Union job any bets against it?

Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: February 12, 2012 9:30 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

and we thought california was very politically correct in equal opportunities. stanford sux! they know him well since palo alto high is right next door. he can bring many more local fans to watch stanford basketball. we should rat out the coach at that time! what a piece of @@@@.

Since: Jan 29, 2012
Posted on: February 12, 2012 8:55 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

Build 'em up.... Tear 'em down.... That's what we all do. I'd like him to keep doing well, get a nice contract, play out his career and have a great life. Seems like a good guy.

Since: Aug 22, 2011
Posted on: February 12, 2012 8:43 am

Let the great Lin debate begin

agread, plus everyone has an off game. I am scared when melo comes back cause he will disrupt the ball movement.

look at his shooting, now he is over hyped.

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