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If Knicks slow, look first at tougher opponents, not Melo

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist

Comrade Berger's sensible, rational and calmly reasoned analysis on the so-far-hypothetical case of Lin v. Anthony can be summed up this way:

Stop making Carmelo Anthony the villain in a piece that hasn't even happened yet.

We highly recommend it.

On the other hand, each of the seven teams that have felt the sting of Lin's tail -- New Jersey, Utah, Washington, the Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota, Toronto and Sacramento -- has not only been eviscerated on the floor but then castigated afterward because it doesn't have someone like Lin in its own employ.

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It is the new pretzel logic -- Lin is the new instant standard, both for point guards, and for teams that have failed to find someone just like him. To put it another way, here's the standing headline: "Lin Exposes -------."

And there's more to come, with New Orleans on Friday night, where there's even more to expose because the Hornets had a Lin-type and traded him away to the L.A. Clippers. And when we say "they," we mean David Stern, more or less.

The Hornets are the worst of the eight teams Lin has helped dismember to begin his second career, and though it seems too small a point to mention that the combined records of the eight (yes, we're assuming the Hornets in the Garden is another New York win/Lin showcase) is 85-151, it bears mentioning because Anthony will return to active duty just as the Knicks' schedule gets more difficult.

As in Dallas; New Jersey; Atlanta; at Miami; at Cleveland; at Boston; at Dallas; at San Antonio; at Milwaukee; Philadelphia; at Chicago; Portland; Indiana; at Indiana. That's every team with a winning percentage over .600 except Orlando, Oklahoma City and the L.A. Clippers.

In short, a lot of teams who will not have to read how Lin defines their own inadequacies. In shorter, most of the league's elite.

We are not suggesting here that Lin's path to megastardom has been paved by the infirm and uninterested. The shows are the shows, period, and he gets full marks for excelling at a time in NBA history where there are a lot of superior point guards.

But it will become more difficult for the Knicks as the opponents get harder, and the transition to an Anthony-enriched offense that might actually be fairly easy is made more difficult by the fact that there will be some defeats along the way.

And the suggestion that Anthony could be the foot in the frosting that is already beginning without any evidence at all will only become more pronounced when some of those wins turn to losses.

In shortest still, Anthony becomes the villain in a schedule story -- unless you are willing to go out on a limb right now and say that the Knicks' winning streak will stretch to 22, and that all other teams will naturally bow before the relentlessly compelling Army Of One that is Lin.

And that's the unfair part. Anthony is not a fool, and there is no proof that he will become one just because Lin has become bigger than the Knicks themselves. The task gets more difficult because the task gets more difficult, and it's no more complicated than that.

Is there a chance that Anthony might have essential problems with the new world order? Yes. A year ago, he was going to be the savior of a team that has a greater following than a resume. Now, it's someone else, and his considerable self-esteem may not be able to handle the change in circumstances. That would show on the floor.

But it might show on the floor even if he proves to be completely amenable to Lin's way of doing things as well. So this is a plea not only to do as Comrade Berger suggests -- not to see a problem before it even happens -- but to understand that when things get more difficult, you won't choose the obvious scapegoat because he's the most obvious scapegoat.

The Knicks have made the easy transition from bad to OK, and the harder leap is always from OK to good.

It would behoove everyone to understand that before looking for fingerprints that don't exist yet, and in fact might have a much simpler explanation:

That you don't mess with Comrade Berger when he's on to something.

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


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