Linsanity overshadowing NBA luminaries
Jeremy Lin has done more than just resurrect the New York Knicks’ season, save Mike D’Antoni’s job, catapult himself to the highest levels of fame and make himself a global brand.
The Knicks’ out-of-nowhere point guard also has taken one of the more interesting NBA seasons we’ve seen in a long time and utterly overshadowed its other compelling storylines with his spectacular rise.
This is why Deron Williams channeled everything he had into scoring a season-high 38 points in the Nets’ 100-92 win over the Knicks on Monday night. It’s why Lin and his teammates need to gird themselves for the fact they’re likely to face the very best efforts opposing teams have to give.
Lin hasn’t just turned himself into the story of the season. He’s stolen a lot of the glory that rightfully belongs to other teams and other players.
None of this is his fault or any kind of indictment. It is the spoils of his success and the background music to his emergence. It’s also a fact of which guys such as Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and LeBron James surely have taken note.
Remember that LeBron guy? He’s in the midst of one of the finest seasons of his career. He’s averaging 27.6 points, 6.8 assists and a career-high 8.1 rebounds per game. He has the Heat playing basketball as good as they’ve seen in Miami since the Big Three got together. He’s on the road to redemption, and he’s traveling it with a fire and a hunger that’s something to behold.
Kobe has had his own fascinating season. He’s turned back the clock by averaging a league-leading 29.0 points a game, the most for him in five seasons. It’s a statistically fantastic performance that has featured awe-inspiring nights, but it’s also heralded a new and uglier era for the Lakers. Kobe can score, but he hasn’t been able to mask the growing possibility that the Lakers are a train wreck in the making.
Kobe called out his general manager this week for not clarifying whether Pau Gasol will be traded. The GM basically fired back saying he’s going to do what he’s going to do. Meanwhile, Gasol remains in limbo and the Lakers are good but not great.
Without Jeremy Lin, the Heat and Lakers alone would make this an NBA season worth following. But Lin also has overshadowed a lot of other incredible things going on outside New York.
The San Antonio Spurs thrust themselves back into the upper echelon of the Western Conference with an 11-game winning streak, the Dallas Mavericks and star Dirk Nowitzki seem to have found their groove, and the Oklahoma City Thunder are legitimate title contenders. Every one of those teams is filled with narratives and dramas worth your time.
The list goes on. The Clippers are arguably the best team in Los Angeles and utterly a joy to watch, Dwight Howard’s daily soap opera continues to make Orlando resemble "As the World Turns" and young rookie point guards such as Ricky Rubio and Kyrie Irving are weaving their own captivating brand of beautiful basketball night after night.
Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls are also big-time championship contenders, perhaps the one real obstacle for the Heat, but only if Rose’s recent back-injury issues are short term. The end of Boston’s Big Three days have been marked with anger, poor play and a cloud of confusion and doubt about the future that’s fascinating to follow as long as you’re not a Celtics fan.
The NBA is brimming with incredible stories just as one of its best in years, Linsanity, has exploded in a city desperate and ready for this kind of basketball relevance.
That means Lin and the Knicks need to get ready for the onslaught. They are targets now. Every star player, particularly point guards such as Williams sick of hearing about Lin, will bring their absolute best against him and his team, night after night, until they’ve turned Linsanity into a pejorative.
Teams such as the Heat, Thunder, Bulls, Spurs and Clippers will take their play to another level against the Knicks. That’s the flip side of Lin’s fame and the adulation it has brought him. Like Tim Tebow or the Heat last year, everyone wants to show there’s more hype than greatness there.
For New York, this has potential mixed with peril. Meet these challenges head on — even just above a .500 clip — and they could be a battle-tested squad ready for the playoffs in a way that far exceeds most of their opponents.
Fail to meet them — begin to lose two or three in a row, let that chemistry turn to poison, let the adulation turn to accusations — and Linsanity could become another vicious letdown for Knicks basketball.
The NBA is a king-of-the-hill kind of league. Everyone wants to be on top. And with enough storylines out there to keep any NBA fan happy, and enough stars clamoring to surpass Lin’s celebrity and praise, there’s no doubt that the very people and teams Lin has overshadowed soon will come for him with the singular goal of taking back the spotlight.