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Amid all this Linsanity, let's not forget wins are a team statistic

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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With help from his teammates, Lin is averaging 26.8 points and 8 assists in the last five games. (Getty Images)  
With help from his teammates, Lin is averaging 26.8 points and 8 assists in the last five games. (Getty Images)  

As could have been expected, I am seeing signs of the coming apocalypse as it pertains to Jeremy Lin.

And yes, if you only needed that paragraph to think of the word "Linpocalypse," you are already doomed.

It is this: We are already seeing the sentence "Jeremy Lin is 4-0." And we are one step closer to doom.

Jeremy Lin is not 4-0. The New York Knicks are 4-0 with Jeremy Lin as their starting point guard. There is an enormous difference between those two statements, and it is this:

Tom Brady.

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We'll link those two disparate ideas in a moment, but first, this fact: Wins and losses are not a basketball construct for purposes of evaluating players. They never have been and never should be, because basketball is a game of tightly interlocking parts excelling for the group's betterment. Within that structure, there is great room for individuality and creativity, but it's still a game of five.

Proof: How many wins does Kobe Bryant have? How many wins does Steve Kerr have? Or Satch Sanders? You don't know, and if it weren't for ProBasketballReference.com, you wouldn't be able to find it quickly, and nobody would ask you anyway.

It's a meaningless stat, in other words. The Knicks are playing better with Lin's skill and energy, and that's fine, but it doesn't make him 4-0. He wouldn't be 4-0 with Golden State, Dallas or Houston, to name three other teams that didn't get the benefit of Lin as a Knick. He could, though, be part of a team that is 4-0, and given his playing style, that would statement would suit him better.

Wins and losses, you see, is a great team stat. It is a lousy individual stat, because the variables are too great and not reliably explanatory. Even in pitching, where the W-L first began back when the earth first cooled, wins and losses are being downgraded as proof of either individual greatness or incompetence. Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young Award a year ago with 14 wins, fewer than half of his starts -- and he was the best pitcher.

And it's an even worse stat in hockey, where it's used to evaluate goaltenders, and a horrific one in football, where it's used for (or against) quarterbacks.

Jim Plunkett, for example, is not a Hall of Fame quarterback. Why? Because he was drafted by and traded to two of the worst teams of the era -- the '70s Patriots and 49ers -- and his responsibility with those teams was to get his brains kicked in weekly, which he did so well that his subsequent work with the Oakland Raiders can be dismissed as not Hall-worthy because of it.

And if that isn't enough for you if-I-didn't-see-it-it-didn't-happen types, we will now come back to Brady.

Brady was going to be proclaimed the greatest quarterback ever if not for two things -- David Tyree's head and Mario Manningham's feet. Neither of these things happened when Brady was on the field and in a position to prevent them, so he is 3-2 in Super Bowls instead of 5-0.

Except that he isn't. The Patriots are 3-2 in Super Bowls with him as the starting quarterback because legacies, such as they are, should not turn on events that occur when you're not on the field. It's like blaming him for the Giants beating the 49ers two weeks earlier.

In other words, it's stupid. And people should stop doing it.

In this numbers-crazed sporting world, it is remarkable that simple logic has not moved along with the math. In fact, numbers get used as a hammer when they would be better used as a screwdriver -- because, like most tools, they work only when the person who holds them knows what he or she is doing.

Besides, aren't there enough numbers to explain Jeremy Lin without coming up with a phony one? He isn't enthralling enough? We have to stop this before it gets out of hand.

So repeat after me: The Knicks are better since Jeremy Lin was put in the starting lineup. They may not be as good when Carmelo Anthony returns. We don't know. In one of those rare times with the Knicks, it will be fun to see what happens.

If that's not sufficient for you, and you want Jeremy Lin to be 4-0, then be prepared when the Knicks hit a valley, as all teams do, for him to get the blame the way Kobe Bryant is getting the blame for the Lakers being average this year.

Oh, wait. He isn't getting the blame for the Lakers being average this year, because he isn't the cause. There are other players on the floor.

Ohh, now I get it.

And you should too.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast Sports Bay Area (CSNBayArea.com).

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