10:02 am Mar. 21, 20125
Jeremy Lin showed an uncharacteristic hint of irritation with a question about his persistent doubters as he stood in the center of yet another media scrum at his locker following New York's 106-87 win over Toronto at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night.
"I'm not worried about proving myself to anybody," Lin, who had 18 points and ten assists against just three turnovers, responded before the question had even finished. "People are going to have skeptics their whole lives, so I don't really care about that."
He seldom answers questions so curtly, and is usually the first to assess himself harshly, and to discuss the aspects of his game that need improvement.
But maybe it's time for him to stop pretending he's just a prospect with a chance to succeed. Certainly, the N.B.A. teams employing those anonymous scouts quoted in the Post who assessed Lin as a D-league talent should be concerned about paying good money for such ill-informed opinions.
It was one thing when the entire league had yet to see the undrafted Lin play. It is quite another to come up with such a judgment based on the playing record he's compiled already. It almost sounds like some of the scouts who missed Lin on the way up are hoping he'll prove them right, after the fact, by crashing back down.
The reality is that despite a coaching change that shifted the Knicks away from what was supposedly the only system he could ever succeed in, and a surrounding cast that has shifted almost continually since he broke into the league, Jeremy Lin is still putting up numbers that are impressive, both compared to the other point guards in the league this season, and compared to the rookie campaigns of the best players at his position in recent years.
Lin's assist percentage on the season is 43.5 per 100 plays, just ahead of Chris Paul, and trailing only Jose Calderon, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo and Steve Nash. Which means he's been distributing the ball at an elite level, and that continued last night, when he delivered an assist in 57.5 percent of his plays.
That's all the more impressive next to the accomplishments of those great point guards when they were at his level of experience. Lin's assist percentage rates ahead of the rookie seasons of Paul, Kidd and Williams, all of whom rank among the all-time leaders in rookie performance for assist percentage. The list of players at Lin's assist rate or lower includes people like John Stockton, Andre Miller, Gary Grant and Sherman Douglas.
Not one guard who has done what Lin has in his first or second season has failed to have an extended career in the N.B.A. And no one is still worries about the potential ability of players like rookies Ricky Rubio, Kyrie Irving or second-year point guard John Wall, even though all of these young point guards lag far behind Lin as distributors of the ball.
One person who clearly understands this is new Knicks coach Mike Woodson, who is making sure his new offense includes room for Lin to operate.
"I kind of know where shots are coming now," Woodson told assembled reporters for his postgame press conference Tuesday night. "We're kind of mixing in open-court play, where we give Jeremy an opportunity to wheel and deal, we mix in some set plays, and we post some. So there's a variety of things going on."
And throughout all of it, there remains Jeremy Lin, whose success has ceased to be a phenomenon. At least for those of us who aren't as smart as those scouts.