The man, myth, and the legend that is Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin has led the charge during the team's three game winning streak this week.
Lin's unbelievable, eye-popping play has made national headlines, with the Harvard graduate going from zero to hero in just a matter of days. After seemingly saving the Knicks' season (as well as perhaps Coach Mike D'Antoni's job), it's safe to say Lin has Knicks fans everywhere gleefully bouncing on Cloud Nine.
But even New York's fans are able to power past these euphoric feelings and realize the "Linsanity" might not last forever, right? With no Carmelo Anthony or Amar'e Stoudemire, Lin has put the team on his back and carried them ever since. As exciting as its been, fans have been waiting for him to hit a wall, because no one quite knows the ceiling for his success.
If Lin and the Knicks were ever to hit a more understandable wall, that wall would have been Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers strolled into the Big Apple for a matchup with the Knicks on Friday, and although all the momentum was clearly in their opponent's favor, the championship-contending Lakers seemed like a good candidate to deflate the Knicks' spirits a bit with a loss.
Instead, the legend continued.
Though Bryant and the Lakers dismissed having to prepare too heavily for Lin's apparent greatness, the team's strategy was to allow Lin to shoot the ball. The Knicks' young stud has taken the league by storm with his flashy and efficient playmaking ability, in addition to the skill-set needed to drive to the basket with ease. Lin has found success by consistently finding his teammates in the paint as well as around the perimeter. When he can't find them, he goes to the hoop for easy layups, often drawing the and-one.
Seeing as how much of his success has come from the inside, the Lakers challenged Lin to shoot from the outside. But boy, did he accept that challenge. The phenomenon displayed a new facet of his game, converting on jump shots from around the perimeter and beyond the arc. Lin's rise to the top continued as the nation watched Friday night, with the young guard pouring in 38 points (a new career-high) on his way to leading his team to a 92-85 victory, truly stinging the Lakers.
Though the Knicks owe their resurgence nearly all to Lin's emergence, the point guard is quick to try and distribute praise all around. Lin gave much credit to many of his teammates, whom he also dished out 7 assists to. The fact is, Lin has been finding them all in the right spots, making it easy for them to cash in on easy buckets. That's what a true floor general does.
What's more, the Knicks have looked more like a well-structured squad (without Anthony or Stoudemire) than they have all season long with Lin taking the reigns. Each player seems to understand his role and executes it well. Tyson Chandler has continued to rebound the ball and has also played well offensively down the stretch, though he did finish with only 9 points last night to go with his 11 rebounds.
Another key cog in the lineup, Jared Jeffries has played a vital part in the Knicks' winning streak, doing all the little things; diving for loose balls, grabbing rebounds, and playing even better defense, drawing charges left and right. Not only did Jeffries grab 9 boards himself and swipe two steals, but Jeffries added an impressive 11 points as well.
Though his stat-sheet wouldn't suggest he had a great night, Landry Fields recognized his role against the Lakers and did it pretty well; trying to throw off Kobe Bryant. Although Bryant had 34 points and tried to match Lin shot for shot down the stretch, he finished the game having only made 11 of his 29 total shot attempts. Fields made sure Bryant did not play efficiently, which certainly helped the Knicks stay competitive throughout.
Through it all, Lin's play has been remarkably amazing. When was the last time the league saw such a player take on similar burdening challenges, and come out so victorious? Has there ever been a player that has matched Lin's recent spurt of excitement, explosiveness, and overall success in such a short amount of time?
Clearly, fans are pumped up, roaring with "M.V.P" chants for Lin, half-joking he should have made the All-Star Game for his sudden accomplishments. While that's certainly taking it to the extreme quite a bit, would it be that farfetched for the league to ride Lin's momentum for what it's worth, and find him a place in the star-studded weekend somehow?
Able to run his team more efficiently than any other point guard has this season, the way he breaks down the defense would suggest Lin would do well in the Skills Challenge. However, there just might be a few other point guards a bit more established up for consideration.
To be fair, though, he certainly deserves the opportunity to fill in as an injury-replacement for any young player forced to sit out the Rising Stars Challenge. After all, it's hard to believe the league finds a player rising more rapidly into a star than Lin.