And on the 21st Day, Jeremy Lin rested.
Three weeks of Linsanity were finally over after his last appearance for the NBA at All-Star Weekend in Orlando. Lin took a day to himself — spent with his family far away from the crowds that surrounded him and the NBA officials who pulled him in four different directions — to catch his breath before the real frenzy begins.
The Knicks (17-18) have 31 games left in the regular season and the mission is simple for both the player and the team: steadily improve and peak in time for the playoffs. From here on out, it should no longer be about Linsanity. For this to become something more than just a novelty, more than just a fad or a sensation, it has to be more.
“I think hopefully as the season progresses,” Lin said over the weekend, “it will go from that to New York Knicks . . . and people will start talking about the Knicks and not necessarily me.”
And that doesn’t mean talking more about Carmelo Anthony, which is what Melo’s fellow all-stars, such as Chris Paul and LeBron James, tried to do in defense of their rat pack buddy. Paul emphasized that Melo is still the star of the Knicks and LeBron went out of his way to point out that “Melo played great” in the all-star game.
Anthony was hardly great, relative to MVP Kevin Durant and other candidates, such as LeBron, himself, but he was good. He had 19 points and nine rebounds in 30:20 and was 7-for-15 from the field. He was 0-for-3 from downtown, however, which remains the most notable trouble spot for him since returning from the ankle and wrist sprains.
Melo faced the music all weekend, starting with an appearance on ESPN’s First Take, in which he intelligently sidestepped the opportunity to offer up woe-is-me rhetoric about the skepticism he’s facing in New York right now. Instead, Melo confirmed his belief that this team is his best shot at a championship.
Amar’e Stoudemire, the forgotten star who had a forgettable first half of the season, left for All-Star break telling reporters that in order for the team to have success, players will need to sacrifice individual accolades. But that doesn’t mean players should stop being who they are.
As we discussed in the previous Fix, this is a critical week ahead, one that will afford the team four full practices (starting Tuesday due to CBA restrictions) to prepare for a challenging month of March. The Knicks need to find themselves this week, find the chemistry that will spur this team to achieve something beyond a mid-season novelty and a nice feel-good story.
Yes, Linsanity has come to an end. Reality begins.
SLAMMING IDEA WAS NOT TO BE
This year’s Slam Dunk contest was loaded with relative unknowns, but had moments of potential — Paul George’s glow dunk was outstanding — for an otherwise underwhemling overall show. The lack of a clear standout winner, however, suggests that Knicks rookie Iman Shumpert might have had a chance to take the title if he didn’t have to withdraw with knee tendonitis.
Lin revealed one of Shumpert’s dunk ideas that surely would have had people talking.
“We actually had a sweet idea, Iman came up with,” Lin said. “Landry was going to roll a couch out with a cover over it, I was going to be sleeping underneath it and then we were going to pull the cover, I was going to throw to Iman an alley-oop from the couch and he was going to jump over both me and the couch, windmill it and then sit down and have Landry hand him a Sprite.”
STEREOTYPES SKEW SCOUTING
While meeting the national media during All-Star Weekend in Orlando, Lin acknowledged one of the most obvious — yet sensitive — reasons why he had been overlooked so often throughout the early part of his career:
“I think just being Asian-American, obviously when you look at me, I’m going to have to prove myself more so again and again and again, and some people may not believe it,” Lin said.
“I know a lot of people say I’m deceptively athletic and deceptively quick, and I’m not sure what’s deceptive,” Lin then added. “But it could be the fact that I’m Asian-American. But I think that’s fine. It’s something I embrace and it gives me a chip on my shoulder. But I’m very proud to be Asian-American and I love it.”
With just one game this week — Wednesday against the Cavaliers at the Garden — Mike D’Antoni’s plan is to run a week’s worth of practices similar to how he’d handle training camp. There will be a great emphasis on offense and developing a system for not just the starting five, but also for the bench players. The team doesn’t play again until Sunday afternoon against the Celtics.
The Knicks released updates on the three injured players. For starters, forward Josh Harrellson, who has been out since Jan. 21 with a fractured right wrist has been cleared to practice. He will be on the court with the team when official practice may resume on Tuesday at MSG Training Center. Harrellson adds even more depth to the bench, especially in the front court.
Shumpert, who missed the last three games before the All-Star break and withdrew from the Slam Dunk contest with knee tendinitis, is cleared to practice but on a “limited basis,” according to the team.
Bill Walker, who has missed the last four games, remains out with a sore left elbow.