The Jeremy Lin era isn't over, it's just on hold; Robertson does his Rivera impression
Yesterday afternoon, Knicks coach Mike Woodson announced that Jeremy Lin had not been medically cleared to play in New York's series against the Miami Heat. With the Knicks trailing 3-1 entering Game 5 in Miami, that was essentially telling the world that Jeremy Lin will not play for the Knicks again until next year.
It was back in December that the basic necessities for Linsanity came together. Lin, the onetime star at Harvard, had bounced around the fringes of the N.B.A. since graduating in 2010. But the Knicks, desperate for a point guard due to an injury to Baron Davis and the ineptitude of Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby, grabbed him.
Not that they intended to do much with him at first.
“If somebody wakes up with a cold, he’s playing a lot,” D’Antoni told The New York Times. “If not, we’ll see.”
"We'll see" meant no playing time by Mike D'Antoni for more than a month. But with New York sinking on February 3 at home to the lowly Nets, D'Antoni turned to Lin, with a remarkable result: 25 points, seven assists, and a Knicks win.
Thrust into the starting lineup two days later, Lin went out and topped himself, with 28 points and eight assists. Madison Square Garden was never louder this season, not even in Sunday's playoff win.
And so we had Linsanity: Lin defeating Kobe Bryant with no help from a missing Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, Lin sinking the Toronto Raptors with a three-pointer at the buzzer, Lin leading a comeback at the Garden to beat the defending champions on national television.
Lin jerseys were everywhere, and the Lin story went worldwide. Non-basketball fans asking about, talking about, watching Jeremy Lin.
It's anyone's guess what the next chapter of the story of Lin as a cultural phenomenon will look like, but we do know a few things about what's in store for Lin the basketball player. That he'll be back with the Knicks is a virtual certainty; he can only earn a maximum right around the mid-level veteran's exemption that New York will have this summer, and for marketing purposes alone, it is inconceivable that the Knicks won't offer it to him.
But there are much better reasons than marketing to bring Lin back. Among point guards, Lin finished sixth in assist percentage at 41 percent, just ahead of Toney Parker of the San Antonio Spurs and Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls. Neither one, needless to say, is available.
By contrast, Lin actually turned out to be a better custodian of the ball than the statistics showed; his turnover rate was inflated by the amount of time he spent as the only Knicks handling the ball or scoring. Among guards, he had the 13th-highest turnover percentage. That's a less significant stat than the following one: The Knicks were 17-10 when Lin played, 20-23 when he didn't this season.
Naturally, the anticipation for Lin's return for opening night of the 2012-13 season, when he'll probably be starting at point guard for the Knicks, will be enormous.
But then he and the Knicks will have to follow it up by going out and genuinely contending for a championship, if it's to end up being anything but a letdown from one of the most exciting seasons the Knicks ever had.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
The Knicks need to win in Miami to extend their season. The Heat are 30-5 this year at home, but the Knicks finally have both Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony thriving offensively. Who could have imagined, back when both did the same thing in the season opener against Boston, that it would take so long for them to do it again?
Meanwhile, Knicks titan Patrick Ewing is up for the head coaching job in Charlotte.
Another night, another remarkable victory for the Mets, storming back from 4-0 down to beat the Phillies, 7-4, at Citizens Bank Park. The comeback relied on bunching two-out hits, with David Wright tying the game on a play that involved Philadelphia's defense bungling cutoffs and a throw, and Lucas Duda putting the Mets ahead with a single.
Unfortunately, it looks like the Mets will be without Josh Thole, their catcher, for more than seven days with a concussion.
The post-Mariano Rivera era began with a 5-3 victory over Tampa Bay, thanks to a pair of home runs from Raul Ibanez, who had been in a slump since the middle of the 2009 season. David Robertson saved it, and while no one is Rivera, Robertson is about the best possible alternative any team could have. The Yankees also announced that Andy Pettitte would make his 2012 return on Sunday.
New York hosts Houston at Red Bull Arena Wednesday night. The Red Bulls had a message for Rafa Marquez, who returns from his latest suspension: Stop it.