Some 50 months ago, Jeremy Lin was the biggest thing in basketball. Then a 23 year-old undrafted player out of Harvard, he exploded as an offensive juggernaut for the Knicks and produced more forced puns than a dad convention.
But then it all went bad. Linsanely bad - thanks, dad! - as things always do for the Knicks. After taking New York from lottery-bound to playoff contender in two months, Lin tore his meniscus in mid-March and watched from the bench as Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire got demolished in the first round by the LeBron-led Heat in five games. New York jettisoned him for Raymond Felton (shrugging emoji guy) and the rest is Knicks history.
But four years later, playing 630 miles south in Charlotte, Lin is having the postseason we all thought the spring of 2012 could be leading to. After struggling in Games 1 and 2 against the Heat, both Charlotte losses, Lin put up 39 points in Games 3 and 4 on 50% shooting from the floor. While he hit three-for-six from three in the wins, his effectiveness has come from attacking the rim. Miami has tried to close-out Charlotte’s perimeter players, giving Lin the opportunity to do this.
Lin has drawn 24 fouls thus far in the series, just as many as LeBron James has this postseason. But the defining image he’s given us in the series isn’t standing on the free-throw line or even finishing at the rim – it was shrugging after knocking down a three, just as Hornets owner Michael Jordan once did. (Jordan is the original shrugging emoji guy.)
Charlotte still have a lot of meat left on the bone to even get out of the first round and Lin’s future is up in the air as a free agent in July. But it’s fun to see him recapture some of the old magic.
“Kemba Walker and Lin, they put you on your heels,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said after Game 4. “They are aggressive and make you have to defend with position. You have to expect that in the playoffs – great performances.”
After two lost seasons in Houston and then another on the Lakers, Lin’s great playoff performance is mostly going unnoticed so far outside of Charlotte and Miami. That wouldn’t have been the case in New York. It’s hard to imagine the kind of blowout coverage he would have gotten had he stayed healthy and done this four years ago. Almost as hard as it is to imagine today’s Knicks even making the playoffs.
Video of the week
DeAndre Jordan scored seven points and was one-for-six from the line, including these back-to-back air balls, in the Clippers Game 4 loss at Portland on Monday night. The last year has been as bizarre as any the globe has ever seen, but last July’s saga of two NBA franchises going all-out to secure the services of a one-dimensional center is right up there with any election candidate or Florida police blotter item.
Quote of the week
He’s an idiot. Don’t listen. He’s an idiot. That’s what we have to say about that. He’s an idiot - Kevin Durant on Mark Cuban’s comments about Russell Westbrook not being a superstar
It’s been a tough year for Mark Cuban. Snapchat has blown away his Cyber Dust app, his team got blitzed in the first round of the playoffs by a “non-superstar” and he’s been crushed by his nemesis Donald Trump as America’s most popular tweeting, reality TV billionaire.
If he only he had been able to nab the great DeAndre Jordan, everything could have changed.
How did LeBron carry the Cavaliers this week?
LeBron was off his season averages in points, rebounds, field goal percentage and three-point percentage in Cleveland’s opening round sweep of Detroit, but Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving compensated by raising their games. Don’t think the Cavs would be okay without LeBron, though. The NBA’s greatest quote generator, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, let it be known that LeBron is still pretty important to their success.
1) San Antonio Spurs (2) Hunter Felt laid out the reasons why the Spurs are now the Western Conference and NBA favorites – at least until Steph Curry’s knee and ankle allow him to hit pull-up, half-court threes with ease again. (Although he can probably do that on crutches.)
2) Cleveland Cavaliers (3) Yes, the Cavaliers are ahead of Golden State now, too. Remember how they won two games in the Finals last year when Matthew Dellavedova “shut down” Curry? Cleveland would probably do even better if Curry wasn’t on the court at all.
3) Golden State Warriors (1) The case has been made for why the Warriors are vulnerable. Now for a pretty good counter-argument: the Warriors are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. While their video game offense gets all the highlights, their defense can lock opponents down. All hail NBA Coach of the Year Steve Kerr (and NBA Interim Coach of the Year Luke Walton).
4) Oklahoma City Thunder (5) The Thunder struggled with consistency all season, but they were one Steven Adams called-off buzzer beater in Game 2 from sweeping the Mavericks. They look like they’ll be sticking around for a long postseason run. It will be amazing to see what Russell Westbrook pulls from the deep recesses of his closet.
5) Miami Heat (7) The Heat still look like Cleveland’s biggest threat in the East ... assuming they can get by Knicks reject Jeremy Lin and the team owned by the guy from the famous failure meme. A stiff challenge!
6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11.
6) Atlanta Hawks (8)
The Hawks opened Game 5 against the Celtics by shooting six-for-24, only to then outscore Boston 74-33 from the middle of the second quarter to the start of the fourth. The improvement came from Atlanta moving the ball like they did last year at their peak. If the Hawks have found their game again, they could give the Cavaliers a lot to handle in the second round - which is likely to happen because nothing can ever be easy for Cleveland.
7) Portland Trail Blazers (11)
The Trail Blazers deserve to play the Clippers without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. This isn’t a franchise that has a history of getting breaks. They drafted Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan. Then the Clyde Drexler-era Blazers peaked before Jordan left the NBA to play minor league baseball. Then Drexler went to the Rockets to win a championship there. Then Portland drafted Greg Oden. Then Brandon Roy’s body fell apart. Then LaMarcus Aldridge left. It’s been a pretty rough 32 years. Let them have a first-round series handed to them by the injury gods.
8) Toronto Raptors (6)
Toronto’s 25-9 fourth-quarter clinic to come back against Indiana on Tuesday night was a remarkable display of basketball. At the same time, it feels like the Raptors could just be cruelly setting up their fans for heartbreak with collapses in Games 6 and 7.
9) Charlotte Hornets (9)
Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin are getting the bulk of the credit for Charlotte’s success so far, but the Hornets wouldn’t have won Game 3 without Frank Kaminsky. He had 15 points and six rebounds, including 13 points in the third quarter, that gave the Hornets a big lead. Meanwhile, Justise Winslow – the man many think Charlotte should have drafted over Frank the Tank – had four points and shot just one-for-seven from the field. Never forget that Kaminsky always comes up big when the cameras are on him.
10) Indiana Pacers (13)
The Pacers had a 13-point fourth quarter lead on Tuesday night with the opportunity to head back to Indiana to clinch. Then it all fell apart. “It’s awful to have a had a chance to win on the road, go up 3-2, and come back home,” Paul George said after the game. “Once again, we failed to live up to that moment.” Indiana Pacers Basketball: Once Again, We Failed To Live Up To That Moment.
11) Boston Celtics (10)
Boston’s Avery Bradley got hurt before it was the cool thing to do in the playoffs. You have to respect the originator of a trend?
12) Los Angeles Clippers (4) The Clippers biggest problem isn’t that they’ve lost Chris Paul to injury. Their biggest problem is that they’re coached by an insane person.
13) Houston Rockets (17)
Yes, the Warriors are nicked, but not enough to prevent this disaster from escaping a first round exit. The series is still going on and already James Harden is working on his offseason relaxation.
In Harden’s defense, laying on the floor probably beats having to sit next to Dwight Howard.
This article was written by DJ Gallo, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 27th April 2016 12.42 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010