– By Megan Rilkoff.
In case your television is broken, you are taking a Facebook hiatus, or you have not socialized with anyone yet this week, I am going to catch you up to speed with the latest sports phenomenon occurring in the NBA. His name is Jeremy Lin. He is 6 foot 3 inches, 200 pounds, of Taiwanese-American descent, is saving Mike d’Antoni’s job, and is bringing back to life playoff hope for the New York Knicks. All this in the last 12 days and 7 games. Since Lin’s start on February 4, the Knicks are currently on their longest winning streak this season of 7 games and are hoping to make it 8 on Friday in Madison Square Garden versus New Orleans.
Lin’s highlights so far include a 3-point buzzer beater to win in Toronto on Tuesday night and a record-high 38 points scored against the Lakers, giving the Knicks their fourth straight win.
Two weeks ago, the Knicks were not on my radar at all as possible playoff competition. Amare and Carmelo still couldn’t get it together and I was content in thinking New York was only going to get a Super Bowl championship for the year. Suddenly, the Celtics are only up 2 games on the Knicks, at a time when they are undeniably heating up and our injuries are once again our Achilles heel (Bass, Garnett, O’Neal, and Pietrus have all missed games this past week).
With Carmelo Anthony out the last 5 games with a strained right groin, Lin finally had his chance to prove himself at point guard, proceeding to set a record for most points in 5 career starts (130) since the ABA-NBA merger. As Bill Simmons comments in his mailbag commemoration to all things Lin, “basketball isn’t supposed to have surprises like this…people don’t come out of nowhere in the NBA” (http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7579097/linsanity-bag). And that is exactly where the Lin-sanity hype is coming from. Almost 2 months into an already shortened season, a second-year player changes the destiny of a team and the face of a franchise. Naturally, everyone is asking: Where has he been? How was he undrafted out of college? Why did the Warriors waive him in December? It is clear that in this one-of-a-kind sports Linderella story, timing is everything. And only time will tell if the Knicks are going to look at this magical run as the highlight of their season, or if the puns are going to die out soon and lin-sanity will become normal. My predication is heavily on the latter.
It is going to be interesting to see the new dynamic of an uninjured Carmelo Anthony joining the mix – the one expected to light up the Garden since his move to New York – which could be as soon as tomorrow against New Orleans. Will Melo be able to mesh into the new Lin-spired Knicks? He is confident he will be able to do his part, taking some pressure off of Lin to perform consistently. Knicks fans, however, are nervous that he is going to mess up the good groove they have going. Although Melo is used to being the go-to guy on the team (and rightfully so) as long as he can share the spotlight for now, the Knicks should be able to continue their streak. Carmelo can’t deny that Lin has made the Knicks look like a real team for the first time this season.
So what does this young player from our rival state of New York have to do with a blog about Boston? Answer: He has some Crimson in his blood – graduating from Harvard in 2010. Harvard is not known for its strong athletics, but this year the men’s basketball team are 23-1 overall and 7-1 in the Ivy League conference. If they continue, they might be looking at their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1946. Of course, all the Lin hype is definitely good for their image, reputation, and recruiting of future players. His teammates and coaches are obviously thrilled for him, one teammate saying: “He is so deserving of it. He is such a good kid. There’s no better representation of Harvard basketball or Harvard University to be at such a big stage.” That is the cool thing about Jeremy Lin – he is identifiable with so many people (Asian-Americans, Harvard grads, New York, the Bay area…) and is bringing new fans and interest to the NBA.
Before the Knicks began their 7 game winning streak, the Celtics beat them at home in our (TD) Garden, 91-89. The next showdown of the revamped Knicks & the Celts will be March 4 in Beantown. And we will all be watching to see how our vets handle their newest star.