Linsanity Anniversary – Past, Present, and Future

A little over a year ago, this website was started as a dedication to Jeremy Lin and the Linsanity that he brought to the NBA. While the media hype and shock value of Jeremy’s game is a thing of the past (exacerbated by being in New York), the essence of Linsanity perseveres every time Jeremy steps onto the court and plays his style of basketball. Some sports analysts would argue that Linsanity is long gone simply by comparing statistics of then and now, but it was never about the numbers. Many all-stars past and present have put up better statistical streaks than Jeremy did during his breakout period, but what made Linsanity unique was it was a first glimpse at leadership and inspiration in what was supposed to be a hopeless situation.

On the day Jeremy had his breakout game against the Nets on February 4th, 2012, the Knicks had an 8-15 record, losing 11 of their last 13 games. All three of the point guards ahead of Jeremy on the Knicks roster were considered hopeless and even Coach D’antoni would show his frustration by subbing in an inexperienced player in the 1st quarter and letting him take over the team. While game winning shots and fancy passes would grace the highlight reel, it was his intangible ability to lead a makeshift team (while the stars were injured) to wins that would ultimately define Linsanity. Not only did he forge his own future, but redefined it for lesser known names like Landry Fields, Jared Jefferies, and Steve Novak. While Jeremy clearly over-performed as an individual, his presence made the entire team over-perform during that time.

What about now with the Rockets? Before the season began, the Rockets were considered one of the worst teams in the NBA, but somewhat forgiven since they were young and in a rebuilding phase. Even with the acquisition of James Harden, expectations were low since most of the Thunder’s success has been attributed to Durant and Westbrook, and a single young star rarely makes a successful team. Over half the season is over and the Rockets are well into a playoff push despite being the youngest team in the league, cheapest team in the league, and the head coach missing significant amounts of time due to personal issues. Harden has over-performed, Asik has over-performed, Parsons has over-performed, Patterson has over-performed, and even Toney Douglas has over-performed compared to the previous year and overall expectations. As for Jeremy, if you net his steals against his turnovers, he is currently 12th in the league in terms of Assists to Turnovers, which has largely been critiqued as his biggest weakness as a point guard. Jeremy may not be the #1 offensive option anymore, which leads to decreased numbers, but as the starting point guard, he’s currently leading the fastest and one of the most efficient offenses in the league, which has over-performed all expectations. Isn’t this the very essence of Linsanity?

Rockets Player Comparisons

An excellent post made by ESPN board poster “etony3314″ which compares the numbers and styles of the Rockets starters against various veteran players in the NBA. I bolded parts I think are more important for emphasis/organization and added wikipedia links to the various comparison players since the floor ones are less known, but otherwise left the post intact.

Jeremy Lin:
Ceiling – Rajon Rondo
Floor – Jamaal Tinsley

Player A: 32.7 MPG, 11.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 6.1 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.4 BPG, .399 FG%, .309 3P%, .821 FT% 
Player B: 29.9 MPG, 10.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .492 FG%, .263 3P%, .611 FT% 

Player A is Jeremy Lin this season. Player B is Rajon Rondo in 2007-08, his second season (he started 25 games his rookie year, while Lin started 25 games last season, playing very sparingly in his rookie year). The similarities in their games are there – the very good floor vision, the blazing speed and ability to drive, the reluctance to shoot jumpers (and the inconsistency when shooting them), the often lackadaisical effort in moving without the ball, the very good rebounding ability for a PG, the lightning quick hands mixed with the inconsistent one-on-one defense. I’m not saying Jeremy Lin is going to be as good as Rondo – but, with work, that’s his ceiling. For now, he’s a facilitator who can mix in some scoring when necessary and is inconsistent, although sometimes marvelous, on the defensive end. Unfortunately for him, moving without the ball is not his strength, and the Rockets have James Harden, who runs the offense more than Lin, relegating Lin to more of a 2-guard role – which does not at all play to his strengths. The Rockets would be wise to keep either Lin or Harden on the floor, while the other one is on the bench, and to only play them together when necessary, because they do not mesh well at all. 

Player C: 27.4 MPG, 9.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .394 FG%, .717 FT% 

Those are Jamaal Tinsley’s career averages. Lin will be no worse than that – but, once again, their styles are somewhat similar.

James Harden: 
Ceiling – Manu Ginobili
Floor – Steve Francis

The talent levels between Ginobili and Francis really aren’t that disparate. Their attitudes and fortitude are what separated them. James disappeared during the Finals last year, but that doesn’t mean he won’t step it up if and when he gets back there. I’m not going to spend much time on Harden, since you’ve all seen him play plenty.

Chandler Parsons: 
Ceiling – Danny Granger
Floor – Trevor Ariza

Chandler is basically a stretch four who’s quick enough to play the three. He has a very good outside shot, although he’s struggled of late from beyond the arc (his last game notwithstanding). He needs to learn to pick his spots better, however. After he’s made a couple of threes, he starts taking ill-advised shots – and if he’s cold, he’ll pass up open looks. His inside game is a work in progress. He has had some games where he’s pulled down double digit rebounds, although it’s not something he does on a nightly basis. He’s a very good passer for a forward. His free throw shooting was atrocious in his rookie season, but is up to a much more respectable .745% this year (from .551% last year). His defense is very good, as he makes good decisions, has very quick hands and a knack for collecting steals, but lacks the strength to deal with some of the bigger 3′s and 4′s if he’s trying to defend inside, and is sometimes exposed by some of the better players.

Player A: 33.3 MPG, 18.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.9 BPG, .438 FG%, .384 3P%, .847 FT% 
Player B: 37.4 MPG, 15.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .451 FG%, .385 3P%, .745 FT% 
Player C (per 36 minutes): 12.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.5 BPG, .428 FG%, .315 3P%, .677 FT% 

Player A is Danny Granger’s career averages. Player B is Parsons this season. Player C is Trevor Ariza’s numbers per 36 minutes throughout his career. Chandler is probably closer to Granger than Ariza, at least on the offensive end (Ariza is the superior defender).

Patrick Patterson: 
Ceiling – LaMarcus Aldridge
Floor – Brandon Bass

Patterson has a long way to go before he’s as good as LeMarcus Aldrige, but he is a similar player, and has shown quite a bit of improvement this season. He’s become very consistent with his midrange jumper, and also appears to have gained a bit of strength, which helps him in the post. He’s added a three pointer to his arsenal, with mixed success. In a way, he’s the anti-Parsons – he doesn’t shoot enough. He seems to lose confidence quickly on the court after a couple of misses, and has trouble getting into a rhythm after that, often passing up wide open looks. If he could learn to be more assertive, he could be a very good scorer in this league. His rebounding isn’t quite Andrea Bargnani-bad, but it’s not very good. His defense is certainly getting better, but he’s far from elite. He’s an athletic player who can be streaky, but is an extremely good scorer when he’s on. He seems to shy away form banging bodies in the post at times, although he’s good at it.

Player A: 35.1 MPG, 18.0 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .493 FG%, .204 3P%, .778 FT% 
Player B (per 36 minutes): 16.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .496 FG%, .325 3P%, .742 FT% 
Player C (per 36 minutes): 14.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.6 SPG, 1.1 BPG, .491 FG%, .000 3P%, .824 FT% 

Player A is LaMarcus Aldridge’s career averages. Player B is Patterson’s numbers per 36 minutes this season. Player C is Brandon Bass’s career numbers per 36 minutes.

Omer Asik: 
Ceiling – Marcus Camby
Floor – Ben Wallace

Asik is a very good post defender and a rebounding machine. His offense this season is much improved, but hardly something to write home about. He’s not as strong as one would like for a center, but is stronger than many centers in today’s NBA. His shot blocking numbers aren’t as high as one might have hoped. He still does need work finishing at the rim – most of his shots are from very close range, which means that his .482 FG% is actually pretty poor. His free throw shooting is much improved this season, but remains inconsistent, and he is still under 60% from the line. His rebounding, however, is incredible – and consistent. In short, he will have a home in the NBA as a Marcus Camby/Ben Wallace type of player, as long as he maintains his current skill level.

Player A (per 36 minutes): 11.7 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 2.9 BPG, .467 FG%, .205 3P%, .672 FT% 
Player B (per 36 minutes): 7.0 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.5 SPG, 2.4 BPG, .474 FG%, .137 3P%, .414 FT% 
Player C (per 36 minutes): 9.0 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.0 BPG, .512 FG%, N/A 3P%, .513 FT% 

Player A is Marcus Camby’s numbers for his career per 36 minutes. Player B is Ben Wallace’s numbers for his career per 36 minutes. Player C is Omer Asik’s numbers for his career per 36 minutes.

Everybody Wants to be King of New York

Stanford, UCLA, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and the New York Knicks.

The list of organizations that had Jeremy Lin in their grasp just to let him go again. Each one expressed the deepest regret of using their biased gut, and not taking a closer look and believing in their eyes. The Rockets learned their lesson and made an effort to rectify their mistake, one that seemed futile two weeks ago, but only succeeded when the Knicks made the same mistake as so many have done before them. What makes it so much worse for the Knicks is that they saw Linsanity up close and should have known exactly how much Jeremy changed basketball in Madison Square Garden. The lack of offer from the Knicks came down to three factors, two of which should have heavily favored Jeremy, while the last ultimately trumped both others.

The Money

Ticket prices and sales of Jeremy’s jersey (#2 for 2012) are only a glimpse of what he brought to the team. Linsanity also brought prominence to several of his Knicks teammates, most notably Landry Fields, Jared Jefferies, Steve Novak, and Iman Shumpert. Being a public company, Madison Square Garden stock has benefitted greatly from Jeremy and its increase in market value since February 2011 is about 10 times the annual salary of the entire Knicks roster. The reality is that nobody has even begun to truly capitalize on Jeremy marketing value. Since Linsanity, he’s only signed two endorsement contracts, one for Volvo and a renewal with Nike [edit: also Steiner Sports as a 3rd]. A countless number of firms have unofficially used his name and likeness to sell products, but we have only seen the tip of the iceberg due to his flash celebrity. It’s been analyzed over and over again, but the cost of Jeremy’s contract, which would have been a very distant 4th on the team, would be nothing compared to his revenue generating potential. This factors in if ALL of the luxury tax were to be attributed to him solely and his performance regresses to an uninspiring league average despite increased NBA experience. Aside from Jeremy destroying his own image (i.e. Jason Kidd’s drunk driving), which is unlikely given his flawless background, signing him would have guaranteed a substantial net positive income for the Knicks. That being said, it wasn’t about the money.

The Basketball

A popular argument against Jeremy is that he’s still unproven and his limited experience of 35 games last season is a risk. Being good in a competitive sport is about perspective. If the Knicks had gotten Steve Nash, then one could argue that Nash is still producing great numbers consistently and would be a safer bet at greatness next year. Fact is, the Knicks didn’t get Nash, they got Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton. Remember the Hollinger PER stat discussed in previous entries? Jeremy ended the season at 19.97, Raymond Felton at 13.46, and Jason Kidd at 13.11, while the league average is fixed at 15.0. Disregarding Jeremy’s numbers for a moment, his two replacements are both BELOW AVERAGE. The argument will then shift to Jeremy’s “inflated” number since he only played 35 games. In 35 games though, Jeremy’s added value of 125.8, which only accumulates through games played, is more than the added values of Felton  (70.1) and Kidd (43.4) COMBINED playing 108 games. For reference, Nash’s added value is 271.9 over 62 games, but again, the Knicks didn’t get Nash. In a good scenario, Jeremy improves as he should, since he’s young, has limited experience, and point guards tend to peak much later in their career. In a bad scenario, Jeremy regresses to league average… which is still better than Felton and Kidd. The last argument will be about turnovers… let’s just say that the four players mentioned in this section had turnover ratio rankings of 10, 11, 13, and 20 in the league this past season (#1 ranking = the most frequent turnovers). If reducing turnovers was the Knicks top priority, it hasn’t been solved by switching between any of these guys. Add it all together, it wasn’t about the basketball.

The Ego

So if a player is bringing in more money and wins, the only real factor left is whether they like him or not. Despite being wildly popular amongst fans and publicly socializing with teammates, somebody in the Knicks organization clearly doesn’t like Jeremy. The two main suspects are the owner, James Dolan, and Carmelo Anthony.

Despite being encouraged to explore his free agency options, Dolan has been reported to have felt betrayed by Jeremy working with the Rockets. This could have been easily solved (or at least made clear) if the Knicks had made the first move and made Jeremy’s resigning their first priority. Instead, they signed Jason Kidd, Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, J.R. Smith, and Pablo Prigioni before Jeremy even got an offer from the Rockets. Regardless of Jeremy’s allegiance, any decent agent would have gone ahead and secured the best offers possible for their client, just to give them options. In Jeremy’s case in particular, a man who’s danced with unemployment numerous times over the past two years should try to secure as many offers as possible for good reason.

As for Carmelo Anthony, who openly called Jeremy’s contract “ridiculous”, might as well have joined other haters in shouting “overrated”. Every player wants to both win and have the spotlight, but for an all-star that has the worst playoff record in the past 20 years, the spotlight might be the only thing that’s left and Linsanity was about to steal it away on a long-term basis. Maybe the number of fans who taped over the “1” on Anthony’s #17 jerseys to mimic the #7 of Jeremy’s started to get to him.

Perhaps other egos were at play behind the scenes. Coach Mike Woodson has long been an advocate of veterans over rookies, but had been unflinchingly supportive of Jeremy in the past month. Maybe General Manager Glen Grunwald wasn’t a fan of Jeremy either for one reason or another. Ultimately, when Jeremy has the financials, stats, and fans on his side, there had to have been somebody with influence and authority to have said “I don’t like him”. You can’t be the king of New York when Jeremy Lin is more popular than you.

Discussion on the forums

New Coach, Old Team

On Wednesday, the Knicks announced the resignation of Coach Mike D’Antoni. After six losses in a row and dropping from the 8th to the 9th seed in the Eastern Conference, there was immense pressure on the Knicks organization to make changes with the impending trade deadline, the head coach would be the first to fall.

While D’Antoni may have taken the blame, the real question on the mind of every fan is, “who is really at fault?” The most common speculations are as follows:

  • Carmelo Anthony: His isolation plays disrupt the fast paced offensive schemes of Mike D’Antoni that has been so successful during the Linsanity era.
  • Amare Stoudemire: His defense has been horrible and even his offense is subpar considering how much he’s being paid.
  • Jeremy Lin: Opposing teams have figured him out and have adjusted to his style of play, limiting his productivity.
  • Injuries: Tyson Chandler, Jared Jefferies, and Iman Shumpert have all missed a few games in the past few weeks. All three are critical defensive players to the Knicks team.
  • Mike D’Antoni: He failed to properly adapt and include the many new players into the team after the Linsanity win streak.
In the end, despite a roster that is seemingly stronger than ever, the Knicks lost 6 games in a row, including some against inferior opponents (though they were even able to topple stronger opponents during Linsanity). While all the above factors were probably involved, the loss of a coach is a much bigger event than losing 6 games when considering the future direction of the organization. Mike D’Antoni clearly left because his coaching methods were not being respected or recognized anymore by either the players and/or the ownership. Unfortunately, since Jeremy is at the very center of D’Antoni’s system like Steve Nash was in years past, his role as the point guard leading the charge is likely going to become limited in the near future. Interim coach Mike Woodson has said as much that he would like to see more isolation plays from Carmelo Anthony, which is purely dependent on Anthony’s ability to hit shots, regardless of who is the point guard. Whether this finds success or not will undoubtedly shape Jeremy’s loyalties when his contract ends this summer.