Hindsight doesn’t make you a genius, but when the New York Knicks decided to let Jeremy Lin go to the Houston Rockets it wasn’t just a money decision. It was about the egos of James Dolan and Carmelo Anthony, and deciding to build a team around a superstar who knows how to play in only one way, and it isn’t the right one. Lin might never be as talented of a scorer like Anthony or James Harden, but playing in a style that feeds off his talent is a better way to find success.
We will never know if the Knicks with Lin might have done better than reach the conference semifinals and lose in six games to the Indiana Pacers. One thing is clear: The kind of basketball the Knicks played, based on Anthony posting up 25-30 times a game and hoping for the best doesn’t get you very far against good teams. The Houston Rockets hardly had Jeremy Lin in their postseason first round, but Kevin McHale sees the game in a similar way to Mike Woodson. Give the ball to the superstar and hope for the best.
Examples all around these playoffs can be made: Teams that base their offensive success on a single player who isn’t called LeBron James (and even the Miami Heat haven’t been playing that individually) are bound to fall way short of where they were planning to go. The Golden State Warriors stopped looking so dangerous once the San Antonio Spurs figured out how to stop Stephen Curry. The Oklahoma City Thunder had only Kevin Durant left from their superstar duo, and he crumbled under the load with an awful game 5 performance, stealing the opener of the series against Memphis and no more.
Each team has a go-to guy, but it doesn’t mean it’s all up to him. The Memphis Grizzlies mostly enjoy Zach Randolph’s abilities in the paint, but it doesn’t mean that’s their only option (although their game 1 loss begs to differ). The Indiana Pacers aren’t the prettiest thing in the world to watch on offense, but at least they’re unexpected, as opposed to the Knicks who had Anthony shooting nearly 26 shots a game in the playoffs, making only 40.6% of them.
The Knicks had a brief period last season in which their offense looked like one worth watching, being unpredictable. As long as Anthony was out, Lin got the reins, by chance, to run the team. Maybe he isn’t the 25 points, 8 assists per game player he was during a two-week stretch last season or for a week or two again this season, mostly thanks to James Harden being out. But putting the ball in his hands makes the most of his intelligence and passing ability, and infects the team with a more spread around scoring philosophy. It never hurts having players who don’t need anyone else to score, but when you give them a complete mandate over the running of the offense, it usually ends in losses and tears.
Amare Stoudemire didn’t make a difference in the end. The Knicks, while Anthony was on the court, were just as bad without him as they were with him. Nothing changed their style of basketball, which was give the ball to Anthony and hope for the best. Conservative thinking lost them Lin, and conservative thinking limited Lin’s season, and the Rockets’ as well. All the Star power in the world or the money “saved” by not matching the offer the Rockets gave him will change that.