He's the talk of not only the basketball world, but the sports world as a whole. He averaged 27 points and nine assists in his last six games. He is producing more highlights this month than LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. And the best part is he's playing at Madison Square Garden.
If I told you this before the season started, you probably would have thought, "Wow, Carmelo Anthony is going to have a fantastic season this year!" But as everyone knows by now these statements and statistics are not those of Anthony, but of second-year undrafted point guard and Harvard graduate, Jeremy Lin.
While the numbers themselves are impressive, they are not the reason for his meteoric rise to fame. It has more to do with who he is, where he has come from and where he is now.
After remaining undrafted in the 2010 NBA draft, Lin played in the summer league with the Dallas Mavericks, but was cut in the preseason. He then signed with the Golden State Warriors where he put up less than three points per game in the 2010-11 season coming off the bench for Keith Smart. The Warriors cut him once the lockout ended in December 2011 and the Houston Rockets picked him up. After getting a look at him for about a week, Lin was released again and the Knicks pounced a few days later. Injuries and poor play of key Knicks contributors like Mike Bibby, Iman Shumpert, Toney Douglas and Baron Davis forced Lin into playing significant minutes, and the rest is history.
Everyone loves underdogs and Lin is the ultimate example of an underdog story. He is also one of the only Asian Americans in the NBA, and the most popular since Yao Ming. That, combined with his humble, team-first attitude has contributed to his improbable rise to stardom.
After his first two starts, media and fans alike wondered how long his run could continue. Surely he was just a flash in the pan and his performance is unsustainable long term. It's not like he was competing against elite competition, since his first two starts were against New Jersey and Utah (which is actually a very solid defensive team). When Lin put up 38 points and eight assists on the Lakers, though, his status on the NBA totem pole reached a new level. No longer was he just a nice story that will soon be forgotten. He is now a viable long-term solution for the Knicks. Lin is still raw and inefficient, but he will continue to develop with more time on the court. We know he has the brains.
The Knicks have gone 6-0 with Lin as a starter and have done it without Amar'e Stoudemire for five games and sans Carmelo Anthony for all six.
When Stoudamire played under Mike D'Antoni in Phoenix, he and Steve Nash formed one of the greatest pick-and-roll duos of all time, so it is easy to see how he will transition seamlessly into the new lineup. Lin is the prototypical pick-and-roll point guard D'Antoni has struggled to find since he got to New York. With Stoudemire in the lineup, Lin's scoring numbers will go down, but he will create more points and will be more efficient.
Anthony's effect on the team is more difficult to forecast. Intuitively, one would think he is not going to "gel" right with this group. He is an isolation player who can create his own shot and control the ball from the forward position. At the same time, he's an NBA player. He has one of the best offensive coaches in the league on the sideline. I have faith that they will be able to make the offense work in such a way that ‘Melo will get his share, too, while not ruining the chemistry already in place.
The bottom line? Lin's statistics will surely not stay at the incredible averages they have been since he became a starter. But he does have the potential to be a 15 and nine type of guy that may bring this Knicks team to elite status.