Cooler heads keep trying to prevail. Telling us it won’t last and that we should dampen our enthusiasm. That Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, his high profile teammates, won’t be able to play with him because they’re too egotistical. That may be true, but there’s nothing like a perfect pass delivered exactly where you want it so you can score to stroke the ego. That he’s played well but has too many turnovers. Never mind that his turnover percentage, according to Newsday Reporter turned MSG commentator Alan Hahn, is actually lower than four of the league’s five assist leaders, including the vaunted Steve Nash, himself a Lin fan.
What’s truly incredible about this story is that it is in fact, a story. In a time when, especially in sports, not particularly interesting stories are rehashed and rehashed every night, and spectacular moves are made commonplace endlessly rebroadcast on ESPN’s sportcenter. Lin’s is a story that no one can turn cliché. So we have to keep tuning in.
Even Floyd Mayweather’s ham-handed attempt to create controversy didn’t stick. Are there black players doing what Lin does every night and not getting credit? Making it on unselfishness and passing skills? Chris Paul is getting credit and so is Derrick Rose. A lot. While Lin himself is still only barely making it. Many people believe the minute Carmelo returns or when the Knicks add J.R. Smith, Lin will disappear. Jeremy Lin is a story because unlike first round draft picks Rose and Paul (number one and number four respectively), he only got on the court because every other option fell through. (Is that because he’s Asian or from Harvard? Who knows.)
And not only has Lin come from nowhere (Harvard, as Stephen Colbert so perfectly put it), he’s brought others with him. Landry Fields, who had been given up for lost. Jared Jeffries, who now anchors a very eager, very active second unit. And Coach Mike D’Antoni, whose propensity to allow his team to play rather than militaristically micromanaging them now seems like genius again.
The truth is that a recurrent theme in Lin’s wins has been his beating elite point guards by doing a better job of setting up his teammates. And then, when all seems lost, displaying a surprising killer instinct. What’s different about Lin is he’s different. He doesn’t fit into categories. He does what’s necessary. And he has figured out how to be the glue on a team that was supposed to be New York’s answer to the Heat.
A word about that: what the emergence of Jeremy Lin means is the sudden DeYankeefication of the Knicks. It means they are not the best team money can buy. They are that plus luck: they are that plus accident. They are true to the spirit of John Starks, who might otherwise have been bagging groceries instead of dunking over Jordan and Pippen at once back in the nineties.
And, most importantly, Lin is creative – like Walt “Clyde” Frazier? I don’t know I’m not old enough and I wasn’t here – but here in this city where creativity bangs up against micromanagement this feels like a victory for the creative types — the scrunges sitting day after day in the coffee shop working on the novel, on the screenplay, with only the bright streets and the coffee to cheer them on, while elsewhere publishers go gaga over a $4 million advance for Amanda Knox. The scrunges who believe, beyond hope, as Knicks fan Woody Allen famously said, “If you wait around long enough, they get to you.”