NBA

Behind the man who predicted Linsanity

Howard Beck of the New York Times tries to explain Linsanity.
Howard Beck of the New York Times tries to explain Linsanity.
NewsCore The Wall Street Journal
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In May 2010, an unsung numbers hobbyist named Ed Weiland wrote a long-term forecast of Jeremy Lin for the basketball website Hoops Analyst.

At the time, Lin was a lightly regarded, semi-known point guard who had completed his final season at Harvard.

But Weiland saw NBA material. He emphasized how well Lin played in three non-conference games against big schools: Connecticut, Boston College and Georgetown. He noted how Lin's performance in two unsexy statistical categories — two-point field-goal percentage (a barometer of inside scoring ability) and RSB40 (rebounds, steals and blocks per 40 minutes) compared favorably to college numbers put up by marquee NBA guards like Allen Iverson and Gary Payton.

Weiland concluded that Lin had to improve on his passing and leadership at the point, but argued that if he did, "Jeremy Lin is a good enough player to start in the NBA and possibly star."

In the wake of Lin's historic New York explosion — he guided the Knicks to a seventh straight win with a double-double against Sacramento Wednesday night — Weiland's eerily prescient post has quickly recirculated around the Internet as a rare example of someone who saw potential in a player who wasn't drafted and was abandoned by two teams before getting a chance with the Knicks.

Traffic rushing to Weiland's 2010 Lin piece briefly crashed the Hoops Analyst website after Lin torched the Lakers for 38 points Friday, and his wisdom has been compared with the groundbreaking number-crunching in the baseball best seller "Moneyball," which became a recent Hollywood movie.

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Monitoring from his silver Toshiba laptop, Weiland has been amused by the new appreciation of his work. A 51-year-old father of two, grandfather of one, vegan and amateur trail runner who lives by himself in Bend, Ore. — a region full of cyclists and snowboarders — Weiland doesn't fit the profile of a 21st-century sports wonk.

"You were probably expecting a 22-year-old MIT graduate," Weiland said Wednesday, in his first interview since Linsanity began.

In the 1980s, Weiland became fascinated by the work of Bill James, an ex-security guard whose detailed baseball analysis would later help revolutionize that sport.

For fun, Weiland began to compile his own data. A fan of the Michael Jordan Bulls, Weiland was living in Chicago when he began to find like-minded hobbyists on the internet. He began self-publishing his insights online. Weiland connected with Hoops Analyst in the mid-2000s.

"He had a special interest in translating how NCAA players would do when they came to the NBA," said the site's founder, Harlan Schreiber. "Jeremy Lin is just an example of what he's been doing for years."

Weiland said that he'd once hoped to turn his stats hobby into a professional career, but it was "never a burning ambition." He compared it to friends who played music for love.

Tagged: Knicks, Jeremy Lin

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