All right, so now that the Knicks' giddy 99–88 victory last night over the Utah Jazz has secured that Jeremy Lin is gonna be a folk hero here in this city, we, as longtime Lin observers, feel obliged to lay down some ground rules. First off: the bowing. We know that Lin has been playing along, but honestly, fellow Knicks, stop bowing to him after a great play: Just because you don't have many Asian friends does not automatically make him Japanese. He is not Japanese. Let's stop with that, okay?
Also, while we have you: Before there's even a chance to get it started, knock it off with the "J-Lin" nickname. The Jeremy Lin Experience is already far too enjoyable for such a pedestrian nickname. Some New York Mag staffers were knocking around some nicknames last night; our own Ben Mathis-Lilley came up with:
- THE LINSTIGATOR
- 4.0 (Harvard reference)
- THE CHEF (Wu-tang/assists reference)
- THE GENIUS (Harvard AND Wu-tang reference)
- THE CRIMSON GUARD
- ACER (Taiwanese corporation jokes?)
- THE COACH-KILLER KILLER
Ultimately, though, we tend to side with Seth from Posting and Toasting: "He's too pun-able, and thus there must be no pun. He's Jeremy." Whatever he is ... he might just be saving the Knicks' season. Get excited.
For a Knicks team that didn't have Amar'e Stoudemire (dealing with the awful death of his brother in a car accident) and Carmelo Anthony (who strained his groin in the first quarter), Lin, quite simply, beat the Jazz by himself, scoring 28 points and dishing out eight assists. (He should have had several more assists, but the Knicks had a tendency to miss wide open layups in the first half.) Lin not only penetrated the lane regularly, he ran the pick-and-roll — something he hasn't always been known for doing — and basically won the game with just three offensive options: Himself, Steve Novak, and Jared Jeffries. It was really something to see, folks.
Lin had eight turnovers, all in the second half and mostly because the Jazz were essentially triple-teaming him at halfcourt and because he was so exhausted he could barely stand by the end. (Mike D'Antoni said, "I'm gonna ride him like Secretariat.") It was as thrilling a performance as the Garden has seen this season, by a guy who still doesn't have a permanent contract and was playing in the D-League a fortnight ago.
The best part is how viscerally pleasurable it is to watch Lin play: His game is flashy, almost showoffy, and requires him to have guts, guile and flair in equal measure. The drama of it is, it's obvious, what's most fun for him. It is all you could possibly want as a feel-good story. Including — and most important — the wins. Lin has now led the Knicks to two must-win victories in a row, and just like that, they're only one game behind Milwaukee for the last playoff spot.
Obviously, the Knicks will need Stoudemire and Anthony back as soon as possible. Stoudemire — who might have scored 30 points last night had he started for the offensively inept (but terrific defensively, especially last night) Jared Jeffires — and Anthony might not be back for Wednesday's game against Washington. But last night, the unlikeliest of guys kept them afloat, in the most energetic, loopy way possible. At the beginning of the game, fans were chanting "M-V-P!" at Lin as he shot free throws, a sarcastic meta-commentary on the bizarre turn this supposed superstar-laden season had taken. By the end, they were chanting "M-V-P!" at Lin much louder, and this time, they weren't kidding. This is exactly what the Knicks needed, and heavens, just in time.