Jeremy Lin’s Meteoric Rise Lifting Knicks

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Ironically, if it wasn’t for an early season injury to Shumpert—and Baron Davis’ injury—the world may’ve never gotten to hear the name Jeremy Lin.

[Black Star Sports]

A week ago, he was the undrafted, underrated, unknown fourth-string point-guard sitting at the end of the Knicks’ bench.

But now Jeremy Lin, with his spectacularly inspiring play is lifting the Knicks (13-15) like Lazarus from the dead.

Under Lin’s steady, stellar play the Knicks have won five in a row. During that time the California-born Asian-American is averaging over 26 points with 7 assists, leading the Knicks to wins over the New Jersey Nets, Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves. And Lin has done so against quality NBA point-guards including: Deron Williams, John Wall, Devin Harris and Ricky Rubio—a solid contender for the 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year.

Moreover, Lin led the Knicks to wins in four of the five games with both Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony absent from the lineup. Stoudemire, who should be in uniform for Tuesday road game against the Toronto Raptors, is mourning the untimely death of his 35-year-old brother, Hazell, who was killed in a tragic car wreck in Florida. Anthony suffered a groin injury early in last Monday’s 99-88 win against Utah. He should be back later this week or next.

A week ago the underachieving Knicks, then 7-15, were in full free fall and Coach Mike D’Antoni’s neck was probably being prepared for the guillotine. In recent weeks, fans at Madison Square Garden had turned against the team and coach. After all, this year started with much talk and expectations of winning a championship—something that has eluded the Knicks since the Walt “Clyde” Frazier era of 1973.

And with center Tyson Chandler’s arrival, from the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks to pair with superstars Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, those expectations were well justified. However, no one could’ve foreseen the monumental early travails the Knicks would face. Sure, because of the heavy turnover of players from last year, and the absence of a preseason—a byproduct of the NBA lockout—some hiccups were to be expected.

But the early season struggles, at point-guard, totally stifled Coach D’Antoni’s vaunted offense which is predicated on precision point-guard play, which—until now—has been completely non-existent. First, was the news at the beginning of the season, that veteran point-guard Baron Davis would be out for an extended period due to a herniated disc, in his back. Davis, acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers, was slated to be the starting point guard.

Then it was decided third-year player Toney Douglas would be the starting point-guard. From the beginning, there were questions regarding Douglas’ ability to be an efficient playmaker, since he’s primarily a defensive-minded shooting-guard with a dangerous three-point shot. Unfortunately, Douglas, who had shoulder surgery during the offseason, is having his worst year as a pro. Not only has he been unable to facilitate the playmaking function but his three-point shot has been ominously absent.

For stretches, Coach D’Antoni also used veteran point-guard Mike Bibby. However, Bibby, 33, who is in his 13 pro season is unable to play heavy minutes, or, to defend the NBA’s quicker point-guards. For a while, the unfair burden of running the offense was thrown on the shoulders of rookie Iman Shumpert. Shumpert has already proven that he’s a great defensive guard averaging 2.1 steals-per-game—fourth in the NBA.

But Shumpert also struggled as a playmaker. And, ironically, if it wasn’t for an early season injury to Shumpert—and Baron Davis’ injury—the world may’ve never gotten to hear the name Jeremy Lin. For it was Shumpert’s opening day injury, during the thrilling 106-104 victory against the Boston Celtics, that caused the Knicks to acquire Lin off waivers.

Jeremy Lin’s ascendance from obscurity to superstardom in a mere week is nothing short of astonishing. And everybody is fascinated with this story—and with good reason. Because Lin’s story is more than just a sports story, it’s a saga about a persistent underdog’s meteoric rise against all odds. It’s also a cautionary tale about opportunity.

For nearly all of his basketball life, Lin has had to prove critics wrong and fight for the opportunity to prove that he belongs. In 2006, in his senior year, Lin led his Palo Alto High School to a 32-1 season and upset the nationally ranked Mater Dei 51-47 to win the California Interscholastic (CIF) Division 2 state title. He made the All-State First Team and was named the Northern California Division Player of the Year averaging 15.1 PPG, 7.1 APG, 6.2 RPG and 5.0 SPG.

But Lin—who marketed himself by sending out his tapes—wasn’t offered any scholarships by Division One schools-even though he was encouraged by some programs to join as a “walk-on” player with no scholarship offers. Lin had dreams of going to UCLA or Stanford—like his friend and Knicks’ starting shooting-guard Landry Fields.

In the end, Lin was only guaranteed a spot on two Ivy-League college teams: Brown University and Harvard University. Ivy-League universities don’t offer athletic scholarships but Lin decided to enroll at Harvard—although Harvard’s basketball program wasn’t initially a believer in him either. In his first year, Lin averaged 12.6 PPG making the All-Ivy League Second Team. By his junior year, he averaged 17.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.3 APG and 2.4 SPG and in his senior year he averaged 16.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG and 4.5 APG. In his last three years, he made the All-Ivy League First Team.

Despite this, Lin was undrafted in the 2010 NBA Draft. Eventually, he signed as a free agent with his hometown team, the Golden State Warriors, for the 2010-11 season. However, he played only sparingly and was eventually cut on December 12, 2011. A few days later, on December 12, he was picked up by the Houston Rockets but was cut on Christmas Eve, so the team could sign center Samuel Dalembert. After Iman Shumpert’s injury the Knicks signed Lin on December 27.

The improbable circumstances that saved Lin from falling through the cracks to land with the Knicks have made this story legendary. It makes you wonder how many Jeremy Lins—not just in basketball but in all facets of life—go unnoticed because they’re never given a chance to prove themselves? Why did it take the Knicks’ coaches so long to realize the last player, on their roster, was what they needed to turn their season around?

Luckily, the Knicks discovered Jeremy Lin in the nick of time.

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