Friday, May 03, 2013

Jeremy Lin coming off the bench in Game 6

Jeremy Lin has been cleared to play Game 6 against the Thunder. The intriguing development is that Kevin McHale will bring Lin off the bench.

I want to see how Lin does in the 3rd guard role because I believe it's the role he's naturally best suited to play. While Lin as-is is a quality starting PG with room to grow, his game is ready made for the dynamic, Swiss-army-knife, game-changing, combo-SG/PG, 3rd guard role typified by Manu Ginobili and Thunder-version James Harden. Lin is better when he takes the swashbuckling, dominating approach that comes with the 3rd guard role than when he restrains himself with the game-managing mindset that comes with starting PG. The few elite NBA 3rd guards are my favorite players to watch and Lin has the goods to join them.

Lin can do a lot of damage to the Thunder if he unleashes himself on the Westbrook-less Thunder guards. With his poor play in Game 1 and injury stoking his critics, I believe Lin will be more than eager to strike hard against the Thunder tonight with some throwback Linsanity.

I said before the season:
Last season, Lin's play reminded often of a proto-Nash, but also reminded that he didn't play PG in college. I believe the ceiling for Lin is Steve Nash, if he can fully convert to PG and improve his streaky jumpshot, and his floor is Delonte West, if he is unable to convert to PG, loses his intuitive flair, and settles as a servicable combo guard. The niche for Lin between his floor and ceiling is do-everything, game-changing 3rd guard. Much of what Bill Simmons says about James Harden's 3rd guard role with the Thunder could apply to Lin, such as "like Dennis Johnson, Manu Ginobili, Joe Dumars and (going way back) Sam Jones before him, Harden has shown the enviable ability to lay low for 42 minutes, then rise to the occasion when it matters." With the Knicks, Lin could have shifted to the 3rd guard role if starting PG didn't work out. The Knicks need a versatile, clutch, playmaking 3rd guard to fill in the gaps on a team of specialists and poorly matched players, help Carmelo Anthony as a pressure release valve, and bail out the Knicks' clunky offense. On the Rockets, it's starting PG or bust for Lin.
"Starting PG or bust" is no longer the case due to the Rockets' success with Beverley and Garcia starting against the Westbrook-less Thunder while Lin was out. I look forward to watching Lin tonight revive his Knick-version takeover aggressiveness, versatility, energy, playmaking, high basketball IQ, big-moment clutchness, and creative isolation scoring, and establish himself as an elite NBA 3rd guard.

Post-game: Ouch. Linsanity did not reappear. The Rockets lost Game 6 while Lin finished his 1st post-season with a poor small game. Lin was fine on defense but tentative and out of sync with his teammates on offense. He only played 13 minutes and finished the game sitting on the bench.

Exit thoughts: Despite the disappointing post-season, the 2012-2013 season over-all was still a successful one for Lin. He played in all 82 regular-season games and showed his durability, established himself as a competent starting NBA PG with impressive flashes of Linsanity to show he has yet to reach his ceiling, and experienced the post-season. Lin is still progressing on the Nashian Mavs-period developmental curve. He essentially is in the same position now as he would have been last season had he played it out as the Knicks starting PG, then tasted the post-season against the Heat. This comment at jeremylin.net makes a good point that Lin's production this season was quite high relative to his low usage rate (38th among NBA PGs). A Lin doubter who apparently played for his HS basketball team is rebuked by indignant Lin fans.

Eric

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