12:30 pm Apr. 2, 2012
In all likelihood, the Jeremy Lin portion of the tumultuous story that has been the New York Knicks this season has come to an end.
The team announced Saturday that Lin has a meniscus tear in his knee. Surgery is to be performed this week, with a recovery time of about six weeks. The N.B.A. regular season ends April 26; that recovery time will take Lin out until roughly the second round of the playoffs, a destination New York will be hard-pressed to reach without him.
It was no accident that the Knicks were 8-15 when Linsanity was born on Feb. 3 against the Nets. Sure, Carmelo Anthony had been struggling, and Amar'e Stoudemire was still feeling the effects of an inactive offseason due to his back injury. But the Knicks were really suffering without a point guard, a problem Lin came in and solved immediately.
Now 27-26, the Knicks are in an oddly similar place, roster-wise, to where they were when Lin made his debut. Anthony is playing better this week, but is still battling an injured groin. Stoudemire is out for the next several weeks with a bulging disc in his back. And Baron Davis, the point guard the Knicks originally thought they'd rely on, is fighting a hamstring injury while he continues to recover from a back injury that kept him out for nearly a year.
The Knicks' playoff hopes would seem to rest, above all, on the status of Davis, who is easily the best remaining option for the team at point guard. It is not overstating things to say that the offense tends to come to a near-standstill when he is out of the game.
But leaving Davis in the game for too long creates its own problems: Coach Mike Woodson risks wearing him down, limiting his effectiveness when he plays, or knocking him out of action altogether with a complication of one of his injuries.
Without Davis, the Knicks have 48 minutes to fill at point guard, and no good options for doing it. Mike Bibby, who has been getting some time at the position, lacks the quickness to defend opposing guards and has struggled to distribute the ball, and his shooting has been awful, under 27 percent on the season.
Toney Douglas, who has played sparingly since Lin's emergence, got 10 minutes of time in Saturday night's 91-75 victory over Cleveland. The result was roughly the same as when he was receiving regular minutes as the team's point guard: five shots in 10 minutes, just one assist, one turnover. Distirbuting the ball isn't Douglas' game.
And Iman Shumpert, the talented rookie, has shown he belongs at shooting guard. He'd probably be starting there over Landry Fields, if the Knicks weren't so short-handed at power forward that Anthony weren't filling that role, leaving Shumpert out of position as well at small forward.
Realistically, the Knicks should be exploring the addition of another point guard in lieu of Bibby, with names like Mike James and Anthony Carter getting mentioned this weekend in after Lin's injury. These aren't saviors; they are simply ways for the Knicks to manage the roughly 20-25 minutes Davis shouldn't be playing, or to make it somewhat less catastrophic for their season if he gets hurt.
It would be funny to think that losing Lin may prevent the Knicks from fulfilling preseason expectations that didn't take him into account at all, if it weren't so sad.