Amar’e Stoudemire must have had a Han Solo moment as the clock wound down at the Air Canada CentreTuesday night. Jeremy Lin, this young Jedi, had the ball in his hands and waved off the pick-and-roll so he could go one-on-one against Jose Calderon for the final shot.
You know what Amar’e was thinking.
“I go away for a little while and everybody gets delusions of grandeur.”
Stoudemire grinned as MSG Network’s Tina Cervasio asked him about his experience with Linsanity.
“I don’t know what’s going on here in New York right now,” Stoudemire said, “but Jeremy is playing great.”
The trick, of course, is to get Lin playing great with Stoudemire, which is something most people expect should happen, considering both have confluent pick-and-roll skills. And if there is a basketball criticism to make about Lin’s game in Toronto, it’s that he spent the first half trying too hard to make that happen.
On the surface, you scan Lin’s statline and the snowman in the turnovers column leaps off the page. But consider that he had five of them in the first half, with several the result of driving hard at Stoudemire looking to make something happen. This is the issue Lin will have to deal with, even as Carmelo Anthony returns to the lineup: Overcoming the urge to defer to the stars.
In the second half, Lin went on the attack and drove at the Raptors defense. Stoudemire shook off some of the noticeable rust from missing a week while mourning the death of his brother and began to play off of Lin’s drives.
Of Lin’s five second-half assists, three went to Stoudemire. The most memorable came with 7:12 left in the game when Lin drove, drew Amir Johnson and then slipped it to Stoudemire for a dunk to cut Toronto’s lead to 78-74.
Both Lin and Stoudemire had huge second half performances in the win: Stoudemire had 13 of his 21 points, six of his nine rebounds and shot 6 for 13 from the field. Lin had 18 of his 27 points and hit 5-of-11 from the field and 7-of -11 from the foul line.
“It’s going to take a little bit of an adjustment,” Lin said of playing with Stoudemire. “He’s unbelievable, I don’t know what he ended up with tonight, but he’s an unbelievable pick-and-roll player, he’s an unbelievable one-on-one player, so it’s my job as a point guard to exploit that and get it where he wants it. Obviously we’ll go through bumps, but I think we made improvements throughout the game tonight.”
BIG APPLE TURNOVER
Lin’s turnover penchant is of obvious concern and the one — one — area where he is showing a weakness. In seven games this season in which he has played 20 or more minutes, Lin is averaging 4.9 turnovers per game. He’s had six or more in four of his five starts.
This is obviously a result of having the ball in his hands for so much of the game. Lin’s Usage Percentage — a rating of how much the offense goes through him when he’s on the floor — has skyrocketed to 31.8 percent this season, which is second-highest on the team behind Anthony (32.7). This would be fifth-highest percentage in the NBA, behind Kobe Bryant (37.6), Russell Westbrook (33.2), LeBron James (32.8) and Melo.
But usage isn’t an excuse for turnovers. Still, it’s not uncommon for point guards who have the ball in their hands most of the game to have a high turnover rate. In fact, of the top five leaders in Assist Percentage in the NBA, four of them have a turnover percentage (based on 100 possessions) of 17 or higher.
Lin’s 48 percent assist percentage would rank second in the NBA behind Steve Nash (58.3), and Nash has a 24.4 percent turnover percentage. Lin’s turnover percentage is 18.8.
Rajon Rondo (46.8 assist percentage and a 22.4 turnover percentage), Jose Calderon (46 assist percentage, 17 turnover percentage) and Deron Williams (45 assist percentage, 17.7 turnover percentage) are other examples. Chris Paul (44.7 assist percentage, 11.9 turnover percentage) is the only exception.
One of the endearing qualities about Lin is his penchant for deflecting credit and pointing to his teammates. He had the right perspective when asked about the Knicks’ thrilling run of six straight wins, as he pointed to the fact that the team was showing steady improvement before he got into the rotation with those close losses to the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics.
“It’s not because of me its because we’re coming together as a team and we started making these steps earlier but we were still losing close games,” he said. “So obviously it wasn’t fun. But when you win that solves a lot of problems.”
Lin’s modesty won’t let him publicly acknowledge that he has provided the missing element — a playmaking point guard who understands the system (and has ice water in his veins) — so we’ll say it for him.
But he’s right, his heroics are getting most of the attention, but the Knicks have emerged as a gritty, hardworking team. And that’s the best part about all of this.
“It’s a collective effort right now and that’s the beauty of a team sport,” Lin said. ” . . . I just love playing on a team that wants to be a team, and this team wants to be a team.”
TONIGHT ON MSG
The Knicks are back at it again as they host the Sacramento Kings tonight at The Garden. Be sure to tune into Visa Knicks Game Night on MSG Network at 7:00 p.m. to catch the latest Knicks Fix segment!