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.
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.
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.