11:40 am Oct. 17, 2012
Jeremy Lin, who you might remember from the New York Knicks, has the unenviable task of proving to the world that last season's Linsanity was no fluke, while doing so on a Houston Rockets team lacking in both reliable offensive options and seasoning.
But Lin's play on Sunday afternoon, and what has followed, did little to put aside the questions of doubters, even as a pair of profiles this week—one of Lin in GQ, the other of Carmelo Anthony in ESPN The Magazine—laid bare exactly why Lin wasn't welcomed back to the Knicks this summer, as nearly everyone assumed he'd be.
Lin shot 1-for-10 against the Spurs on Sunday, but far stranger was his meager assist total. The point guard collected a single assist over 25 minutes, failing to make a significant presence in the game. His backup, rookie Scott Machado, had 11 assists in 23 minutes.
Lin also banged his surgically-repaired knee against the floor during a scramble with Tim Duncan for a loose ball, and sat out Houston's next exhibition game on Monday night.
Lin acknowledged that his knee is not where it was during his run with the Knicks last season.
Naturally, the piece contained the kind of anonymously-sourced nonsense Lin has heard since he became a star, citing a source "with years of NBA experience" claiming that Lin "is limited as an athlete," as if Lin managed to get to the basket, at will, for over a month because no one was paying attention.
And yet, the problem is obvious: if Lin isn't healthy, he can't very well put those doubts to rest.
That ESPN profile of Anthony revealed just why Lin's former teammate, who called Lin's contract offer "ridiculous" in an astonishing lack of player solidarity, had a problem with Lin. Simply: Lin wanted Anthony to score within the team offense.
"He told Carmelo under no uncertain terms, 'I'm not going to give you the ball unless you create space and run the plays,'" a source close to the team said. "None of the other guys had a problem with it. Tyson [Chandler] didn't, Amar'e didn't. They knew they had a better chance with the ball in Lin's hands in the last few minutes."
The resulting divorce means that observers get to see a kind of parallel history played out the way it seldom is: just how good Anthony can be, sans Lin, and just how good Lin can be, given his own team to run.
In the early returns, however, only Anthony appears to be playing at full strength. Lin's next chance to prove the doubters wrong comes Wednesday night, in a preseason game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
In the meantime, Lin's own coach, Kevin McHale, described Lin as something less than a sure thing.
"Jeremy struggled. He’ll have to be better. I think if you asked Jeremy, he probably wasn’t too happy with the way he played either. He’s a young kid. We’re not talking about a 30-year-old, nine- or ten-year veteran. He’s only got 20-something starts under his belt."
He's got two weeks to get healthy before the season starts.