Before we get too caught up in the Jeremy Lin experience, as many have offered already, we’ll have to wait and see if he’s able to maintain his game upon the returns of Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony to the mix. With Stoudemire set to be back in action for the Knicks on Tuesday, most think it a foregone conclusion that he’ll fall readily into the pick and roll madness that has defined the Lin run so far, as there are few in the league as adept as Amare and executing the pick and roll.
The bigger question is whether or not Lin can continue to work his magic with Carmelo Anthony in the lineup, which is actually just a rephrasing of an old question, which is whether Carmelo can exist and ultimately thrive in a Mike D’Antoni offense. That question has been lingering since the Knicks gave up a bounty of talent to bring Anthony into the mix last season, and now on the strength of Jeremy Lin, D’Antoni’s side is gaining credibility and momentum by the game.
Clearly to this point, the styles of D’Antoni and Anthony have not been simpatico, and again considering what the Knicks gave up to get Carmelo it was easy to guess who’d be shown the door first in the event the road was rocky. Now though, with Lin and the undermanned Knicks executing D’Antoni’s offense absent the finisher in Stoudemire, but also without the offensive ball stopper in Anthony, Lin in D’Antoni’s system is producing wins.
There’s no doubt that Carmelo, having watched this all unfold over the last week or so can at least see the merits of D’Antoni’s system now, and the possibilities that it could create for a gifted scorer like himself. There’s also no doubt that Carmelo can execute on the pick and roll. The problem for the Knicks has been that since parting with Raymond Felton to land Anthony last season, the Knicks haven’t had anyone capable of consistently carrying out the point guard position in the D’Antoni system. In Lin they’ve found one.
If now as a result of Lin’s performances, Anthony and D’Antoni can find the same page, it might be Lin’s greatest in a long line of impressive feats. If not, make no mistake about it, it’ll be D’Antoni and Lin and anyone else on that roster not named Amare who’ll be ushered out before Anthony, and with good reason. There are few scorers in the league in Anthony’s class.
Whether D’Antoni’s system is actually capable of authoring championships is a debate that goes back to his days in Phoenix and one that’s as yet unsettled. What’s not debatable though is that the system makes capable point guards look good. It took Steve Nash from a good point guard in Dallas to an MVP in Phoenix, and it’s taken Jeremy Lin from D-League obscurity to NBA star status in just about a week’s time in New York
If the Knicks are going to show real progress as a result of all of this, Lin’s scoring numbers will likely go down, but his assist numbers and opportunities should go up exponentially. One part of his game that will need correcting immediately is to control the turnovers, lost in the glamorous stat lines so far have been some pretty gaudy turnover totals.
All things considered, I’m betting that given a choice to swap Lin for Raymond Felton tomorrow, D’Antoni would do it and never look back, and as the Knicks have a chance to look over some better point guards, Lin-sanity will fade. If Anthony and D’Antoni can move forward successfully though and on the same page, the Lin-pact will linger long after the Lin-sanity has faded.