No Longer Hiding In Plain Sight

Jeremy Lin

Lin shows off his athleticism against the Washington Wizards in yet another Knicks win. AP photo

It was with joyful enthusiasm that I watched Denver get knocked out of the playoffs, signaling the end of Tim Tebow in the daily conversation. Nothing against the Philippine-based amateur mohel, but the hype had gotten ridiculous.

Now Tebowmania has been replaced with Linsanity, and it didn’t take long for the World Wide Leader in Infotainment to spring into action.

From what we are being told, Lin is the greatest thing to happen to the Big Apple since Ralph Cuomo first put sauce on a pie and sparked a restaurant naming war that still rages today. Lin’s exploits are celebrated but never evaluated because nothing destroys a legend faster than truth, and the Mother Ship has too much invested in the two-time All-Ivy League honoree to let anything as minor as turnovers ruin the carefully crafted story. However, the most flagrant misuse of broadband space is the forced comparisons to Tebow, another ESPN creation.

The supposed connections have nothing to do with similarity and everything to do with purchasing inexpensive options on the bandwagon. Back up camera? Check. Leather appointed steering wheel? Check. Meaningless references in a thinly-veiled attempt to gain a few more ratings points by overhyping an event? Check. As we spend this time together, Buster Onley is right now beating the bushes trying to find a plausible answer to “Who’s the Jeremy Lin of baseball?”

Even celebrities and politicians have gotten into the act. Whoopie Goldberg donned a Lin jersey on The View, and Sarah Palin, who never met a catch phrase she didn’t like, posed with a Linsanity T-shirt during a recent trip into one of America’s great liberal enclaves. Whatever gets your name in the paper, right?

God help him.

While the hype and pointless comparisons seem harmless, they distract from the fact that Lin can play and that he is having a direct effect on his team’s fortunes. Tebow was the beneficiary not the cause of his team’s success. But more troublesome than the Bristol love butter being spread on the Bay Area native is how everyone missed on this guy.

One reason is obvious. Lin went undrafted because he is 6-feet-3, thin, Asian and played in an academic conference. He’s the undersized version of the 6-10 white center, just successful. Big Country with a big game.

Lin played in 29 games for Golden State a year ago averaging just under 10 minutes and 2.6 points per. He did shoot just 38 percent while trying to perform for eager, AsianAmerican-heavy audiences that showed up where ever he played. His Warrior coach Keith Smart admitted “giving into the crowd” and putting Lin into game situations before he was ready. Lin was sent to the developmental league three times, where he averaged 18 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Trade offers came in for Lin, but the team held on to him because he was cheap until his contract guarantee was about to kick in and he got released.

New York signed him off waivers and sent him back down to the D-league where he had 28 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists in a game against the Maine Red Claws. Three days later he was back in New York, played sparingly but finally got his chance when the Knicks backcourt went on the DL and the team into a competitive nosedive. The rest, as they say, is history.

Still, questions remain. How, with all his apparent skill, did he go virtually unnoticed by two NBA teams? Race? Opportunity? A late bloomer? None of these make sense. Perhaps it’s true that the hardest things to see are the things right in front of us. Whatever the reason, it seems New York finally has a point guard. Not a two-guard or a swingman posing as a floor leader on James Dolan’s ultimate fantasy basketball team, but an honest to goodness run-the-show guy.

Lin is a legitimate dunker, meaning he can play above the rim, which is a nice bonus for a slender breakdown artist. He shoots well from all angles and has shown he’s not afraid of the spotlight.

Like all young guards he needs to cut down on his turnovers, but the team’s best point producer is back and that will just help him.

Can Carmelo Anthony and Lin get along? That’s the next great SportsCenter question to ponder. Tune in all day, every day, to learn the answer.