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

ESPY Awards 2012 Best Breakthrough Athlete

Jeremy beats out Alex Morgan (USA Soccer), Robert Griffin III (Baylor), Anthony Davis (Kentucky), and Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots) for the ESPY Award 2012 Best Breakthrough Athlete.

Announcement video:

Forum Discussion Thread and Additional Photos and Videos

Linsanity When it Counts

Blog post on ESPN that looks at Jeremy’s stats during the final minutes of a game. Not only is he relying on himself to take more shots and control the fate of the final few minutes, but he’s also shooting better than ever then:

Ever since he waved off a coach, a teammate and a playcall before hitting the biggest bucket of his life — that game-winning 3 in isolation in Toronto — it has struck me that in terms of crunch-time temperament, Lin is as much like [Kobe] Bryant as anyone…

Just to test the idea that Lin and Bryant are similarly ball dominant in crunch time, I fired up NBA.com’s fancy secret new stats tool, and found Lin does like to have the ball in his hands in crunch time, almost as much as Bryant, who is an all-timer in that regard.

In the final five minutes of games within five points, Bryant’s usage rate is a high 42.4. Lin’s is close behind, at 36.6 — higher than, say, Chris Paul’s 33.9, and in the same range as Kevin Durant (40.1) and Carmelo Anthony (43.5). You might say that’s heady stuff for a player whose coach keeps reminding people is effectively a rookie.

But also worth noting is that in these short minutes — Lin has played just 39 that qualify — he has had the best true shooting percentage of the bunch. He has taken 24 shots in 39 crunch time minutes, and hit only nine of them. The secret to his efficiency has been that he has made three of his five 3-pointers, while getting to the line an impressive 18 times, while missing just two. The result is a true shooting percentage (a measure that accounts for 3s and free throws) of 58, compared to Paul’s 57.2, Durant’s 53.8, Anthony’s 43.5 and Bryant’s 42.7.

Forum Discussion Thread

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.

Knicks PER-spective

As a follow up to Linsanity By the Numbers, I’m going to take another snapshot of Jeremy and the Knicks using the Player Efficiency Rating (PER) developed by John Hollinger of ESPN. Jeremy’s PER ranking has fallen a bit since the game against the Miami Heat, where opponents LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have the top two ratings in the entire NBA respectively. While a single bad game may diminish the Linsanity hype, it’s still only a single data point in the realm of statistics. Here are the top 10 point guards in the league with their overall rankings (*edit* added Rondo by popular demand):

4 Chris Paul, LAC 27 36.3 24.0 26.36
5 Derrick Rose, CHI 27 35.5 29.1 24.88
12 Russell Westbrook, OKC 35 35.2 30.8 23.26
13 Jeremy Lin, NY 22 24.5 29.3 22.99
18 Steve Nash, PHX 31 32.1 22.8 22.52
22 Tony Parker, SA 34 34.4 27.6 21.83
23 Stephen Curry, GS 22 30.6 23.0 21.72
27 Kyrie Irving, CLE 30 31.0 26.8 21.21
30 Lou Williams, PHI 36 26.4 26.7 21.05
33 Deron Williams, NJ 35 37.4 30.1 20.93
64 Rajon Rondo, BOS 24 36.7 23.2 18.26

GP = Games played
MPG = Minutes per game
USG = Usage rate (relative measure of how often they handle the ball)
PER = Player Efficiency Rating (league average is 15)

As we’ve seen in the past with various measures, Jeremy’s performance is in the top tier, though his numbers are more volatile than others since he only has 13 full games under his belt (hence the seemingly low MPG). Even with good, but not “Linsane”, performances like yesterday’s victory against the Cavaliers, his PER can easily maintain its top 20 ranking for the rest of the season.

Here are the PER numbers for the rest of the Knicks (Baron Davis, J.R. Smith, and Jerome Jordan are not included due to limited minutes/games):

40 Tyson Chandler, NY 36 33.4 11.4 19.77
50 Carmelo Anthony, NY 26 34.2 29.2 19.37
72 Steve Novak, NY 24 15.6 15.9 17.61
103 Amare Stoudemire, NY 30 33.6 23.4 16.12
194 Landry Fields, NY 36 31.8 14.8 13.12
213 Josh Harrellson, NY 16 18.5 12.6 12.36
254 Jared Jeffries, NY 26 22.1 11.0 10.69
257 Iman Shumpert, NY 29 29.9 19.5 10.56
300 Bill Walker, NY 30 20.3 14.2 8.46
323 Toney Douglas, NY 26 20.8 23.1 6.32
326 Mike Bibby, NY 21 13.9 13.2 6.11

For the Knicks fans that had to watch Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby be the primary point guard, I feel your pain through the numbers. The other big disappointment from projections at the beginning of the season has been Amare Stoudemire, who is heralded as one of the stars of the team, but is currently barely cracking the league average in PER. Jared Jefferies and Tyson Chandler have both been producing better than their initial predictions, in no small part due to Jeremy’s ball handling for the past 13 games. Jefferies is still undervalued in that the number of offensive fouls that he draws from opponents is one of the best in the league, but doesn’t appear on any stat sheet (should be counted as steals in my opinion).

It will be interesting to see how the PER of each individual Knicks player shapes up throughout the season as their point guard troubles seemed to have been solved.

Full Stats and Discussion on the Forums

Deep Bench, Big Win

Cavaliers – 103 vs. Knicks – 120

Despite being down by as much as 17 points, the Knicks had a strong second half performance, with contributions across their entire roster. 10 Knicks players had 15 or more minutes while 7 players scored in double digits. This is the most the Knicks have scored in a single game all season. Jeremy dueled against this year’s #1 draft pick, Kyrie Irving, at the point guard position.

Jeremy recorded his 4th double-double performance with 19 points and 13 assists (along with 5 rebounds and 1 steal). He also only turned the ball over once the entire game while playing for 33 minutes.

Game Discussion on Forums

Too Much Heat

Knicks – 88 vs. Heat – 102

While the Knicks have been climbing the ranks since Jeremy’s debut in few short weeks ago, the Miami Heat showed the world why they were the top ranked team in the NBA. Showing tremendous athleticism and skill, the three Heat all-stars of James, Wade, and Bosh each scored at least 20 points and denied any of the Knicks players from doing the same. Jeremy was the target of much of their hard defense, as he shot only 1-11 from the field and had 8 turnovers. After such a heavy dose of physical and psychological pressure since his debut, ending with his worst game as a starter, the impending All-Star break is likely welcomed time off for Jeremy.

Game discussion on forums

Knicks Dispatch Hawks By Halftime

Knicks – 99 vs. Hawks – 82

A much needed decisive win for the Knicks as they were able to rest their starters for the tough match up tomorrow against against the Miami Heat. Carmelo Anthony had a far better showing, who scored 15 points and added 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block in a relatively short night for the starters. The Knicks distributed the ball well and had 5 players scoring in double digits, leading by as much as 30 points early in the 3rd quarter.

Jeremy recorded 17 points on 6-11 shooting, 9 assists, 2 rebounds, and 2 steals in 32 minutes.

Linsanity by the Numbers

After 10 games of spectacular performances, the reality of Jeremy Lin sets in after both the hype and the doubts. The Knicks have won 8 of their last 10 games with Jeremy, where he has started in 9 of them and played more minutes than any other member of the team. Compared to the last 10 games of all other players in the NBA, here is where Jeremy stands in the league:

  • #9 in Scoring
  • #3 in Assists
  • #2 in Steals
  • #4 in Combined Points, Rebounds, and Assists (#1 among guards)
  • #13 in Overall Efficiency (#3 among guards)

The names that appear in both the top 20 for assists and scoring aside from Jeremy are Tony Parker, Deron Williams, LeBron James, and Derrick Rose. Other names that appear with Jeremy on the top 10 for both the combined stats and efficiency list for guards are Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, and Monta Ellis. To even mention any player with these stars is a testament to what they’ve done, but it’s also notable which names aren’t mentioned. All-star point guards Steve Nash, Chris Paul, and Rajon Rondo have all trailed Jeremy in various stats, most notably scoring ability, but in both overall efficiency and effectiveness as well.

There have been arguments that Jeremy’s performance is going to slow down as the league recognizes his ability and properly defends him, but he has continued to break personal records in every single one of the past 10 games. He broke his scoring record 3 times, assist record 6 times, rebound record 2 times, and steal record 1 time. Whether teams are paying more attention and defending Jeremy more than before, he’s getting better at a faster rate. Unfortunately, as part of playing more minutes than ever before, Jeremy has also broken his record for turnovers twice. Fortunately, Jeremy is prolific at stealing the ball back and averaged the same number of turnovers minus steals per game as Steve Nash and Russell Westbrook, which suddenly makes it both normal and acceptable at that level of play.

For those that argue that 10 games still isn’t enough time to convince you that Jeremy is rocking the NBA like the star that he is, keep waiting, cause it’s going to get better.

Sample stats below from NBA.com, full stats and discussion on the forums

Scoring Leaders Points
1 Kevin Durant , OKC 29.3
2 Russell Westbrook , OKC 26.9
2 Deron Williams , NJN 26.9
4 Kobe Bryant , LAL 26.8
5 Tony Parker , SAS 25.5
6 Kevin Love , MIN 25.4
6 Dirk Nowitzki , DAL 25.4
8 Monta Ellis , GSW 25.0
9 Jeremy Lin , NYK 24.6
10 Dwyane Wade , MIA 24.4
11 Andrea Bargnani , TOR 24.2
11 LeBron James , MIA 24.2
13 Derrick Rose , CHI 23.6
14 LaMarcus Aldridge , POR 21.7
15 Eric Gordon , NOH 21.0
16 Rudy Gay , MEM 20.8
16 Blake Griffin , LAC 20.8
16 Dwight Howard , ORL 20.8
19 Al Jefferson , UTA 20.3
19 David Lee , GSW 20.3
Assist Leaders APG
1 Steve Nash , PHX 13.2
2 Jose Calderon , TOR 9.4
3 Jeremy Lin , NYK 9.2
4 Rajon Rondo , BOS 9.0
5 Tony Parker , SAS 8.2
6 Ramon Sessions , CLE 8.1
6 John Wall , WAS 8.1
8 Chris Paul , LAC 7.8
9 Ricky Rubio , MIN 7.6
10 Greivis Vasquez , NOH 7.4
11 Stephen Curry , GSW 7.2
12 Kyle Lowry , HOU 7.1
13 Deron Williams , NJN 7.0
14 LeBron James , MIA 6.4
14 Derrick Rose , CHI 6.4
16 D.J. Augustin , CHA 6.2
17 Mike Conley , MEM 6.1
18 Andre Iguodala , PHI 6.0
19 Andre Miller , DEN 5.9
20 Jason Kidd , DAL 5.7
Efficiency Leaders (Guards) EFF
1 Tony Parker , SAS 24.4
2 Dwyane Wade , MIA 24.2
3 Jeremy Lin , NYK 23.7
4 Russell Westbrook , OKC 23.4
5 Deron Williams , NJN 23
6 Steve Nash , PHX 22.1
7 John Wall , WAS 21.9
8 Stephen Curry , GSW 21.7
9 Monta Ellis , GSW 21.4
10 Derrick Rose , CHI 21.2
Points/Rebounds/Assists (Guards) TOTAL
1 Jeremy Lin , NYK 379
2 Russell Westbrook , OKC 370
3 Deron Williams , NJN 368
4 Tony Parker , SAS 366
5 Kobe Bryant , LAL 360
6 Derrick Rose , CHI 334
7 Monta Ellis , GSW 332
8 Dwyane Wade , MIA 322
9 John Wall , WAS 316
10 Chris Paul , LAC 300

Full stats and discussion on the forums