The last game Jeremy Lin played was March 24, a 101–79 win over the Detroit Pistons. It was a blowout — no Knick played more than 30 minutes — and it was not one of Lin's better games this year. He scored thirteen points and turned the ball over seven times. A week later, the Knicks announced he was having knee surgery. We assumed Lin was gone for the season, and why wouldn't we? But now, it's possible he could return just when the Knicks need him even more urgently than ever. Why wouldn't the Knicks at least try to get Lin back on the court?
Everyone's being noncommittal about Lin playing, but the odds would seem to be against it — Mike Woodson says, "We'll make some decisions before we get on the plane and head to Miami," Howard Beck of the Times says "Jeremy Lin sounding very unlikely," and the Knicks just cancelled today's practice. Sure, rushing Lin back ahead of schedule might be pushing it. But isn't that what the playoffs are about?
Please, do not get us wrong: We're not saying that there's something wrong with Lin if he doesn't play Wednesday, like he's somehow soft or not Playoff Ready. If the guy physically cannot run and twist and turn, he shouldn't be out there. (And surely the Knicks training staff wouldn't let him anyway.) We're just saying that there is caution, and there is being too cautious.
There is certainly a legitimate school of thought that the Knicks aren't likely to win this series anyway, and that pushing Lin could somehow endanger his future. (Here's a good summing up of that viewpoint.) Meniscus tears are notoriously difficult to project; every one is different, which goes in both directions, of course. But let's take a step back for a moment. One of the major arguments against playing Lin appears to be, "Well, he's such a major part of the franchise's future." Wait, is he? Well, we think so, but we keep hearing a bunch of chatter about Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, too. Next year, no matter what, the Knicks will bring in some point guard help, even if they re-sign Lin; they're not going to make that mistake again. But right now, there is no point guard help. There is just Mike Bibby, and then the spot across the floor that Toney Douglas stares at so that he does not cry when Woodson constantly looks past him on the bench. If there were ever a time when even a slightly gimpy Lin could help, it's now.
The Knicks aren't going to beat the Heat anyway, the argument goes. Well, they certainly aren't with that attitude, mister! The playoffs only happen once a year, and not nearly that often around here. The Knicks are unlikely to win three games in a row against Miami, but this is still a palpable, non-theoretical series; it's one the Knicks can actually win, rather than one we imagine them having a potential chance of playing in a year. It's the playoffs, a concrete reality; it's more than possible that the Knicks would be trying to save Lin for a future that might not come.
More to the point: Even if Lin can't play more than twenty minutes — and it'd be tough to see how he could — the lift it would provide this team, and the fan base, would be incalculable. Of all the silly things to happen this year, memorable, glorious, and painful, without question this is going to go down as the Year of Jeremy Lin. Knicks fans just need to see him one last time this year, before this off-season turns into another mad dash to dole out Dolan bucks — for Phil Jackson, for Nash, for whatever. Even if the Knicks can't beat the Heat — and let us be clear: We do not think they're going to — seeing Lin would have considerable cathartic value.
And who knows? Maybe he'll be terrific, instantly. He's certainly done less likely things this year. If Lin can't play, he can't play. We'll accept that. But it'd be really fantastic if he could play. You just have to think it's worth a shot. One suspects Lin feels the exact same way.