Why Jeremy Lin will be fine

The Knicks just beat the Pacers, 102 to 88, in Indiana. Jeremy Lin had 19 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. He only had two turnovers — his one problem stat.  But that problem will end, because Jeremy Lin is a learner. That’s the second reason why he won’t be relegated to the bench from whence he came only six weeks ago. The first reason is that he’s clearly way better than the average NBA point guard, and better than many other starters as well. A lot of other teams would very much like to have Jeremy Lin starting for them.

Many in the media had written off Jeremy Lin after the Knicks hit the skid that ended with Mike D’Antoni’s resignation as head coach. But Jeremy has participated in the Knicks’ three straight wins since then, as a starter. I listened to the fourth quarter of this game, and he was the Main Man down the stretch, grabbing rebounds, getting steals, distributing the ball, drawing fouls, and hitting four straight free throws without a miss.

Not many people have visited the possibility that Jeremy Lin went undrafted because he wasn’t this good then. He got this good by playing against better competition, and learning every step of the way.

Look at his stats across four years at Harvard. When he arrived, recalled a Harvard coach, he was physically the weakest player on the team. Lin fixed that, and he’s still fixing it. All his stats went up, for the most part steadily. Yet most weren’t as high as he’s achieving now as a starting pro in the NBA.

Some players are already great in high school. A lot of those stay great through their few years in college, and a relative few make it in the NBA. And many of those are done growing as players, once they get there. They become like chess pieces. You know what they’re good for, and use them for that.

But others are on trajectories that start later and grow in a more linear way. Hall-of-Famer Hakeem Olajuwon didn’t play basketball until he was fifteen, the same age at which Michael Jordan didn’t make the cut for his high school varsity team. Both men improved steadily through college and in the NBA. The main difference with Jeremy Lin is that he improved later.

My wife’s business partner, who was a mentor twenty years her senior, was one of the smartest people I ever met. And one of the wisest as well. When I asked her why she wanted to go into business with my wife, she said, “because I could teach her what she didn’t know, and she already knew what I couldn’t teach.”

I think the same thing applies to the best athletes. They are talented, but teachable. They can learn what they don’t know, and improve what don’t do well enough yet.

Jeremy Lin is that kind of player. Unless he gets injured, he’ll be fine. And so will team he plays with, if they’re ready to catch the ball.

When this is done, Linsanity will mean Lin sanity.

4 comments

  1. Gil Reich’s avatar

    Well written. BTW, Howard Beck at the NYT did an excellent job detailing this idea at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/25/sports/basketball/the-evolution-of-jeremy-lin-as-a-point-guard.html?pagewanted=all. “Quite simply, the Jeremy Lin who revived the Knicks, stunned the N.B.A. and charmed the world — the one who is averaging 22.4 points and 8.8 assists as a starter — is not the Jeremy Lin who went undrafted out of Harvard in June 2010. He is not even the same Jeremy Lin who was cut by the Golden State Warriors on Dec. 9.” It’s an inspiring story of an extremely hard worker.

  2. Tim Huntley’s avatar

    I agree with you assessment, and I am confident that this guy will continue to work hard and make himself better. However, beyond his ability on the court, I am probably more impressed with how Mr. Lin has handled the attention he has received the past few weeks. I would have been a wreck.

    …Tim

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