Jeremy Lin descended back down to Earth, only a bit, of course, with his 8 for 24 shooting performance against the Timberwolves on Saturday.
Though he had a difficult third quarter (in which he shot 1 for 10), Lin did finish with with 20 points, 8 assists and 3 steals. The Harvard grad was clearly fatigued, but the Knicks made sure they overcame it, rallying behind his performance to come away with a 100-98 victory.
To me, "LINsanity" hasn't solely been the production and/or the numbers Lin has put up, though they too have been sensational. Moreover, what's been even more key to the Knicks' success has been Lin's effect on everyone around him.
There's obviously been an aura of euphoria and positivity around the Garden as of late, but Lin's great play has elevated his teammates' play on the court as well, rather than simply their emotional states.
Lin has impacted Steve Novak, who too has become somewhat of an overnight success. Having an efficient point guard on the court makes a player like Novak relevant, enabling him to showcase his talent by being found in the right spots to knockdown a three. With Lin attempting to triumph over his fatigue Saturday, it was Novak who came up in the clutch with a late basket from down town to keep his team in the game.
Without Jeremy Lin, however, there is no Steve Novak for the Knicks. Without Novak's recent surge, who's to say the team would currently be riding their current five-game winning streak?
Lin has also continued to make the other players around him better. As Jared Jeffries continues to see time on the court as a big part of the Knicks' defensive pulse, Lin has worked well with the forward to try to hide his imperfections on offense. Though fans may gasp and groan every time Jeffries aims to shoot, Lin has found him in good spots, allowing Jeffries to at the very least, position himself under the basket and potentially draw the foul.
Iman Shumpert has also begun to benefit from Lin's presence on the court. Aside from being able to push to the pace together as two speedy guards, Shump feeds off of Lin's energy. With Lin playing the role of floor general, the rookie out of Georgia Tech is able to look for his own offense. A potential scoring machine, it's been clear early on that Shumpert likes to shoot the ball. Lin certainly allows him to do that more often, which has helped the Knicks obtain a boost off the bench.
And then there's Tyson Chandler, the fringe all-star, who arguably would have gotten a nod to the star-studded game if the Knicks had began their winning ways a bit earlier. Chandler has seen a spark in his offensive production over the course of the winning streak, posting 14.6 points per game. That impressive number is largely in part due to Lin's ability to find him in the paint. Chandler has been converting on a bevy of rattling slams and explosive alley-oops. While the shots themselves may be easy, finding Chandler effectively has not been for Knicks point guards so far this season. Lin's impact has continued to speak volumes.
Thus, Lin's ongoing sudden success begs the question of how long it will last (and/or continue). Will he being able to mesh with the team's soon returning stars, Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony? Lin's ability to elevate Chandler, paired with STAT's great success in the pick and roll with an efficient floor general, suggests playing with one another will ultimately do wonders for the both of them. Lin will finally have a true offensive presence to pass the ball to, diverting the defense away from himself. What's more, Stoudemire will find himself exactly where the Knicks need him to be on offense in order to cash in on easy buckets, truly in the flow of the offense.
Anthony's potential success with Lin seems to be more of a concern. The 2012 all-star tends to excel more in isolation situations, thus dominating the ball throughout the game. This was fine, and even worked well in the past, given that the Knicks hadn't in fact had a real point guard all season long. But now with Lin in the fold, Anthony may have to make a few adjustments to his game for the betterment of the team.
Nevertheless, a great deal of good can come from this. Despite his remarkable play, Lin has been racking up the turnovers. Whether this be a result of fatigue, defensive pressure, etc., the fact is Anthony could potentially provide some relief. The two should work together to find a happy medium for the amount of time each one holds the ball. Lin can run the offense effectively and still find and/or give up the ball to 'Melo when the time comes. By alternating possessions between the two, the Knicks could keep defenses guessing.
The team will begin to explore the endless amount of possibilities, figuring out a way to balance all their talents, as they take on the Raptors on Tuesday. Stoudemire is expected to have rejoined the team by then.