You’re blowing it son: Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks

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Linsanity is nothing more than a Gotham City memory…

When news spread that Jeremy Lin’s offer sheet from the Houston Rockets was not matched, NY Knicks fans only had one question: Why? Why would the organization be willing to allow the most captivating star, who gave the NBA a burst of excitement it did not have in a while, to leave?  Without even a fight?

I thought about this for a while too. I couldn’t come up with an answer. But as I looked back through the history of the Knicks franchise, that answer suddenly became clear.

Since Walt Frazier retired, the Knicks have hitched their wagon to a captivating star. It’s just how they’ve done things. From Bernard King to Stephon Marbury and now, Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks have always subscribed to the same belief that people in NYC have, from Williamsburg to Flushing:  You can’t rebuild. You always have to have stars, box-office stars.

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Stephon Marbury: He was a star too right?

The theory always was that if you rebuild, fans in New York wouldn’t show up. They wouldn’t want to watch a team slowly come together over time to win a championship.

Now I know what you’re going to say, and it’s a fair argument: Patrick Ewing.

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Who in NY did it better than Pat?

The problem is that when you win as much as Ewing’s Knicks, you have to draft smart and develop great talent. Look at what the Spurs have done. They drafted and found guys who helped them win championships. None of them not named Duncan, Parker, or Ginobili were household names. The Spurs did it right. The Knicks haven’t. And the path the current team is on isn’t looking good either.

The truth is that with The Decision, people were  fooled. It’s understandable. People went overboard with the, “You need 2 stars to win, and all the rest of it is just easy” thing.  LeBron and D-Wade fell into a trap of their first season together. The difference between the Heat, and everyone else, is that the Heat’s two stars are LeBron James and Dwayne Wade — two of the five best players in the world. They also happen to be maybe the two most complete players in the world. They play defense at a world-class level, rebound, pass, and can score in a variety of ways.

And it should be pointed out, that Miami had trouble winning a championship until they found role players who could get it done. Do they win the ‘chip without Mario Chalmers — Miami’s favorite whipping boy? Or Mike Miller, Shane Battier, or even Joel Anthony?

The Knicks don’t have a team like this. Their best player is a decent passer and nothing more. His defense is decent and nothing special. He’s a black hole offensively — the kind of guy who dribbles and dribbles until making his shot.

Let’s be real. This year, Carmelo Anthony has buckets to prove. He has to prove he’s not Tracy McGrady. McGrady was guy who could score but not do much else when it mattered most. Anthony has to try and carry a team built for him.

Back to Jeremy Lin. The reason he’s now a Houston Rocket is that everything that made Linsanity special is gone.

Mike D’Antoni, The offensive genius who gave Lin freedom to run that captivating run-and-gun offense? Gone. When the best player wants you gone because you have the temerity to run a system that doesn’t blatantly cater to his goals, you’re gone. In his place? Mike Woodson who before this was best known as the architect of the “Iso-Joe” offense in Atlanta. I think if you asked Knicks fans, that’s the worst part of this. For the first time in a very long time, maybe since Bernard King’s days, they were having fun. While the Ewing Knicks won a lot, it wasn’t fun. It was a war of attrition, ugly basketball all about defense and intimidation. Linsanity was fun and fun to watch. Mike D’Antoni, for maybe the only time in his entire Knicks tenure, got the chance to see his offense ran the way he always wanted it run. It was fun to see Steve Novak become the three-point contest winner every single night. It was fun to see Landry Fields look like he could play, maybe.

And now that’s all gone. The Knicks are back to the same offense that almost every other team in the NBA runs. Hand it to your best player, throw some perfunctory passes around the perimeter, and then let him cook with a few seconds left. Excuse me if I don’t feel a thunderbolt of excitement over this turn of events.

Players willing to accept Lin’s role on the team and what he could do are also gone. In its place is jealousy about the attention he gets. Teammates like ‘Melo and JR Smith calling his contract ridiculous and pointing out it might cause strife amongst the veterans. His teammates complaining about his contract? I can’t remember the last time anyone did that. Did anyone on these Knicks complain about having to pay for Eddy Curry, Jerome James, and Zach Randolph? Or any other player on any other team in any other sport complaining about any other player’s contract? I can’t remember it. To be clear, I don’t believe ‘Melo wanted Lin out. But if you were to argue this point, I couldn’t fight you off. Not vociferously anyway.

The media loving the Linsanity run? Nope. That’s gone too. Led by pied piper Stephen A. Smith — whose love of the star system has never been more blatantly evident than in this case. They’ve pointed out that he’s not a star and may never be a star. Those same media members also blissfully carried water for Jim Dolan, by pointing out that he refused to play in a playoff game with a knee injury and that he couldn’t adjust to Carmelo Anthony. Not that I’m trying to harp on Stephen A. here, but to go on your radio show, write a column and get your nose bent out of joint because Jeremy Lin said ‘Melo would have to adjust to a team that had won seven straight was ridiculous. Insulting and ridiculous.  What would you have had him say Stephen A.? “Look, everyone, we have won seven straight games. But really, we can’t win anything or do anything without Carmelo. So when he comes back, we’re going to do everything exactly how he wants. Don’t get used to this. When the man comes back, me and this team are going to get back to being subservient to Carmelo.”

Simply put, the NY Knicks have never had a future. They’ve never had a plan for when their stars leave, save to get more. I’m not saying Jeremy Lin would have been the start of their golden generation, but here’s a question:

Name the last Knicks player whose greatest successes took place on the Knicks?

I think that says all I need to say.

11 Responses to “You’re blowing it son: Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks”

  1. Temple3 says:

    Off the top — apologies for the length, but I respect your grind, so I want to dig a little deep on some stuff. I hope you’ll walk with me on this one for a minute.

    Was it more fun for New Yorkers to watch D’Antoni’s squad and Lin run over the weakest teams in the league for 2 weeks, or was it more fun to watch Woodson’s team go 18-6, beat Indiana, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, and Philadelphia? Was it fun for New Yorkers to watch Carmelo play big minutes in 9 of those games down the stretch where he averaged 36.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg, and 3.8 apg?

    I don’t think most New Yorkers are even aware that this went down. It’s not in the papers. The media is deeply anti-Melo. Some of that is his own doing…some of it is a function of the biology of the writers. But, when the Knicks hit their stride, starters minutes were cut — including Lin…reserves played more and played better. The defense picked tremendously, the pace on offense slowed, but the style improved because instead of a PG dominating the ball, players still MOVED the ball.

    Once Woodson took over, the Knicks held their opponents to 100 points or less in 20 of 24 games. They held them to 90 or less in 4 games. They held them to 80 or less in 7 games. The Knicks were 11-0 in those games where teams scored 80 or less. And almost every single game was an epic blowout. They won the 80 and under games by an average margin of 21 points. They won the 90 and under games by an average margin of 19 points.

    I think most of the NY media forgets any of this even went down. When it did go down, Lin no longer performing like a superstar, but he was functioning well within the largest context, and he missed some of these games (17 of them). So, the unfortunate truth of the 2011-2012 season is that when the Knicks kicked the most a$$ against the best opposition, Lin was often off the court, or a modest contributor.

    I don’t know what that means. It’s only 24 games, but it’s about the same number of games from which folks have drawn conclusions about Lin. I find it funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha, that people can be so CLEAR about Lin, but be some purely ignorant about Woodson’s impact on the team. All he did in Atlanta was win more games every season than he did in the last with a team full of very young kids that could have competed for a title if their GM had drafted either CP3 or D-Wil when they had the chance.

    It seems to me that the story of last season was as much about coach Mike Woodson as it was about Jeremy Lin — from a basketball perspective. And, I think the Knicks and Jeremy Lin would have been better served staying together, but it’s all water under the bridge, ain’t it.

    Finally, Tracy McGrady only scored in big games, but didn’t do much else? Seriously? The record doesn’t support that conclusion. His career rebound and assist averages are higher in the playoffs than in the regular season. I’m not saying he was a great playoff performer, though few can match his scoring output. I will say he didn’t become less well-rounded in the post-season. And, no matter what, he’s a much better rebounder and passer than Carmelo. Perhaps a guy like Carmelo is more analogous to Adrian Dantley or pre-Detroit Mark Aguirre.

    Oh, and the last time folks probably had fun at the Garden was when Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston were doing their thing en route to the 1999 Finals. Who knows what happens if Patrick Ewing is able to go 100%.

  2. ks says:

    T3,

    Boom. As an aside, it’s amazing how people overlook that ’99 team. They were a lot of fun. As for Lin, decent player but the hype is ridiculous. Multiple ESPN lead stories!? C’mon man! We know what that’s really about.

    Let’s see what he does being the focal point on a terrible Houston team in a loaded Western conference. People are actually talking about “building around” Lin. What!? He’s going to get plenty of playing time so maybe he can stat pad but that team is lottery bound.

  3. Okori Wadsworth says:

    @T3: I’m a Hawks fan. And here’s the thing about Mike Woodson: At a certain point, I got tired of everything he did. Maybe that’s because he had to win that stultifying way, but I just got tired of it.

    Linsanity, to be fair, did include a housing of the Lakers and the Mavs. So it’s not like he spent his entire time as the darling of NY hoops beating up on everyone.

    And, for the record, in the later lines of the piece I say “I don’t know if he’s the start of their new golden generation” but what if he was? See, the Knicks never build. They just jump from star to star, hoping that the next one can do what the others couldn’t.

    And one last point: T-Mac’s numbers were great in the postseason. But I always remember him guaranteeing victory against the Pistons in 03, I think. I never trusted him as a playoff performer after that. It’s not always about numbers.

  4. Temple3 says:

    Okori:

    The Hawks were limited by several factors, and I will agree that Woodson did not coach a scintillating brand of offense there, but they won 13 games his first year. THIRTEEN! And half of the roster was still wearing diapers. Look at the rosters and personnel he’s had to deal with. Royal Ivey at point guard instead of Chris Paul? Seriously, man…what would you do in that situation? 33-yeard old Anthony Johnson the next season instead of Chris Paul. Sorry, but I don’t see beefin’ with Woodson about the offense when Joe Johnson was their top assist guy for a few years. Maybe he should have run the triangle…that’s about the only thing that would have saved that team — other than drafting Chris Paul when he was right there for the taking.

    Lin had 2 great games against 2 historically great teams. And, the Lakers have always been killed by small guards — going back to 1979. And Dallas is Dallas…they missed the post-season. So, I give him credit but he didn’t do it against teams that are notorious for putting the clamps on guards like Miami, Boston, etc. It was commendable, but he didn’t part the Red Sea and let my people go. Game vs. LA was awesome though.

    Not denying his skills…simply saying that the Knicks were often at tehir best when he was playing in the larger context.

    I totally agree that the Knicks never build. I wouldn’t be surprised if Carmelo and Amar’e were both gone in 2 years.

    I agree about T-Mac’s guarantee, but I think it’s one thing to say he didn’t deliver and quite another to say all he did was score. All in all, he made some pretty weak teams look better than they were. He did it in Toronto, Houston and Orlando.

    People make a lot out of getting bumped in the first round, but they don’t seem to realize that Hakeem Olajuwon lost 9 times in the first round in his career. Karl Malone lost 8 times. Garnett lost 7 times. Clyde Drexler lost 8 times in the first round (7 with Portland). It happens to great players because the league is just that tough. The real question is how many times has a guy taken a lower seeded team through the playoffs? In the NBA, it rarely happens.

    I think folks need to rethink some of their “superstar” theories about the league. Carmelo is not a bum because his teams have frequently lost in the first round. Every one of those teams was a lower seed, or lost more games than the team that beat them in the first round. And, in 2 seasons in New York, he’s entered the post-season without a point guard.

    I guess I just wish I could my grubby little hands on the stuff that these other people are smoking. I’d be higher than a KITE!!!

  5. TheLastPoet says:

    Okori, I must agree with T3 when he says that Knicks fans are happy when the team wins. Knicks fans were delirious about that so-called “ugly” Ewing-led team. I know because I was one of them. You sound like a sportswriter when you describe them as “ugly’ and whatever. We all know how the media is in NY. They’ve dogged every Knicks team since the Reed-Frazier bunch, including the 99 team (because they hated Sprewell).

    But fans are different, so that’s that.

    Re: Lin, to answer a question you asked in a prior post, no I don’t think Lin is a scrub. I didn’t say he was a scrub, although I can see how I may have implied it. Lin is a decent player. He is not, however, Derrick Rose (a player who happens to be about the same age as Lin, so it’s a fitting comparison). But in year three of Lin’s contract, he will be paid like he is Derrick Rose. And, in some circles (non-basketball-related circles, I’m sure), he is already considered a “star” like Derrick Rose. Well, I think Carmelo is correct to call both of those developments “ridiculous” (although, it isn’t entirely clear what Carmelo meant by his statement).

    Re: Woodson, since when does a fan get “tired” of a winning team, Okori? Especially a team like the Hawks who we all know made a considerable mistake when they took Marv Williams over both Chris Paul AND Deron Williams. This blunder was not Woodson’s fault. He did the best he could with what he had (which was a part of Temple’s point above). Had Paul or Deron been aboard, as one one of them should’ve been, I doubt you would’ve grown “tired” of your Hawks.

    Peace out.

  6. Okori Wadsworth says:

    @T3: Orlando was where he made the guarantee. Houston, he had Yao. Toronto he had Vince “I drive NBA fans nuts” Carter. And I think if Yao had remained healthy we might have seen a challenger to Dwight’s throne as “best center in the L”.

    Here’s my point though: I’d have to look at the numbers, but I think ‘Melo’s been swept a lot more than T-Mac was. He didn’t win series, but he won a lot of games in the playoffs. How about you screw around and drag something to a game 6 or 7?

    But Temple, let me ask you this one thing: Honestly, in your heart of hearts, do you think ANYONE on the Knicks wanted Lin back? the front office leaked things about how he has an ego problem, Melo and JR Smith went on the record about the kid’s contract, and so on. The Knicks never wanted him once the season was over. It’s clear now if you look at the timeline.

  7. TheLastPoet says:

    just to be clear, i wrote my post BEFORE seeing Temple’s second post directly above. My references to him were in regard to his original post…

    but the second post goes “boom,” too, like ks said lol!

  8. Temple3 says:

    Okori:

    In Houston, he had Yao, and Rafer Alston and Chuck Hayes. That’s not a 2nd round team. The first 3 guys off the bench on that team: Juwan Howard, Dikembe and Luther Head combined to score all of 10 points in Game 7 vs. Utah. All I’m saying is that people forget that STARS really cannot elevate their teams over superior teams in the NBA. It simply doesn’t happen very often. Utah had Derek Fisher, AK47, Mehmet Okur, Boozer and Deron Williams. And oddly enough, Houston won 1 more game than Utah that season, but was the lower seed because Utah was a division winner.

    Utah had a better team with more accomplished players. Maybe it was because of McGrady, but he came up with 29-5-13 in Game 7. Maybe it was those bench players that didn’t carry their weight.

    Before Carmelo Anthony came to Denver, the Nuggets had MISSED the playoffs for 8 consecutive years. The only thing that beats getting bumped in the first round is missing the dance. So, his franchise had mastered the art of mediocrity before he arrived. In his first season, they go from a 17-win team to a 43-win team. And, remember, he was 19 years old. He did make it to the Conference Finals one year…lost to the Lakers. I just think the larger point isn’t exclusively about him…it’s about — Why are so many elite players in the Western Conference routinely exiting in the First Round? If we can explain Olajuwon and Drexler and Malone and Stockton and Garnett, we can explain Carmelo…but we cannot focus on Carmelo as if he’s got something wrong with his basketball DNA. At least, I can’t.

    As for Lin returning, I don’t know if the Knicks players wanted him back. They say they did. ‘Melo is the one who argued that he should be playing in the first place. D’Antoni wasn’t the one who said, “Let’s play Jeremy!” It was Melo. So, I don’t know. Tough to say.

    LP: some fans really liked Sprewell a great deal. I was just saying that JR Smith is the most athletic guy we’ve had since Spree. The media hated him though.

  9. Okori Wadsworth says:

    @TLP: From afar, though, that Ewing team wasn’t beautiful to watch. They ground out victories.

    And there’s a difference between happy because your team wins, and happy because your team wins playing gorgeous basketball. Every fan of every team has had the first. Very few have had the second feeling. The Lob City Clippers had that feeling, the prime Seven Seconds or Less Suns, and the Miami Heat from this season are just a few off the top of my head.

    And frankly, I was as much tired of that whole team as i was with Mike Woodson.

  10. TheLastPoet says:

    Temple, yes I was agreeing with you regarding Spree. Not sure if that was misinterpreted somehow, but the Five Burroughs LOVED Spree. It was the sportswriters who were on sum bullshit. We all know this. I was using it as an example to describe the difference between fan and media perception, something I felt Okori had glossed over in his post.

    Okori, I see no difference between winning and winning “gorgeously.” I say again, us Knicks fans LOVED those late 80s-mid-90s Ewing-led teams. We loved everybody except Charles friggin Smith – and everybody knows why lol! On a personal note, my love was so deep that I had to renounce the Knicks when they traded Ewing to Seattle. I still loved them from afar, though, until everyone – media and fans alike – took a shit on Zeke and Marbury, which as a Black man I could not countenance. Yet I have pledged allegiance to no team in their wake, and the Knicks are, sadly, still in my heart – I’ll just never cheer for them again.

    And to tell the truth, this “gorgeous” bball you speak of? It’s highly overrated. Knicks fans were disgusted by D’Antoni and his gorgeous no D run and gun bullshit. So, as fans, you and i will have to differ.

  11. Ali says:

    Long time reader guys…love the intelligent discourse. I have a quick note on Lin…I am a Kobe/Lakers fan and a Knicks fan too, born and raised in NYC. I loved Linsanity and found it riveting but I also knew that the Knicks were Melo’s team and that they would only go as far as he would take them. People were acting as if Melo had to fit in with Lin and not vice versa. And also lets keep in mind there were subtle undertones of racism that existed through out this whole Linsanity saga so its not just the Knicks screwing up again like people point out, maybe thats why Melo and some other players didnt feel comfortable with Lin there.

    If melo or amare had been 85 percent in the playoffs and didnt play, they would have been crucified but Lin gets a pass. Additionally Lin knew that the Knicks were going to match the initial Rockets contract but he went back and reworked the contract with the Rockets and raised the last year which made it hard for the Knicks to match…doesnt sound like someone who wanted to be in NYC to me. Sidenote look at OJ Mayo..http://sportsblogs.star-telegram.com/mavs/2012/07/for-mayo-it-wasnt-about-the-money.html…..he took less money to be in a potentially winning situation.

    Lin took more money to go to a losing situation…doesnt sound like a winner to me. Besides had he stayed in ny he would have increased his exposure..especially if melo and the knicks stepup like they should. Lin would have made much more money long term. I agree the knicks should have taken better steps to keep him but what people seem to gloss over is that if Lin really wanted to be a knick he would be one and would have taken the steps to show that. Melo had better realize that he needs to step his game to Lebron’s level (he can when he is motivated..WCF vs lakers as example) and take the Knicks far in the playoffs or else he is really going to get thrown under the bus.

    Although it may not matter because if LA gets DH..Kobe is getting ring number 6:)

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