The Dirty Little Secret About the Jeremy Lin era Knicks

Think about the New York Knicks for a second and besides that couch surfing/Harvard grad point guard, you will probably think of offense.  Forwards Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire are two of the best in the game.  Coach Mike D’Antoni is one of the best offensive tacticians in the NBA (his Phoenix Suns ’04-’07 may be the gold standard for the next generation).

Yet before point guard Jeremy Lin entered the rotation, the Knicks were struggling on offense and what little winning they did was on the strength of their defense.  When Lin arrived, suddenly the Knicks had a real point guard, rather than the converted shooting guards or well past their prime veteran that they had previously relied on.  Since February 4th, the image of the Knicks is of Lin twisting his way to the basket or sinking big shots like his three to beat Toronto.

A cursory look at the highlight reel and you’d assume that the Knicks were now a ferocious powerhouse when they have the ball.  Think about it, a good point in a D’Antoni system with Amar’e and Melo to distribute to.

Yeah, but, look at the numbers.  The Knicks are actually not that much improved on offense.  The real improvement aside from win column, public perception, and the like is on defense.  In other words, for all the excitement about Lin’s offense, the real on court difference he’s made for the team is on the defensive end.  Consider that the Knicks with Lin are averaging a little more than 97 points per 100 possessions, a mark that leaves them in the bottom third of the Association; that mark doesn’t vary significantly from their full season mark.  OTOH, since Lin began playing major minutes, the Knicks D, already very good, about sixth in the NBA overall, has been GREAT!  The Knicks D in the Lin era are giving up an average of just more than 94 points per 100 possessions.  If they did this since Christmas Day, they’d be at the top with Philadelphia and Chicago.

In other words, a ridiculously good story, Linsanity, is getting even better, or at least even more counterintuitive.  He’s helping a team coached by an offensive mastermind become one of the best defensive teams in the NBA.    Stranger than fiction indeed.

Martin Johnson wrote a weekly NBA column for the New York Sun from 2003-’08, and for from 2008-’10.  His sportswriting has also appeared in the NY Times, Wall St. Journal and the Atlantic Monthly.


About jmartin437

I've worked in and around the world of high end cheese for 27 years. I've been everything from a department manager who hired and fired and trained staffs to a weekend warrior who shows up ties on an apron the middle of a rush and talks to customers and cleans up the place. I enjoy it all, and I especially like my current situation conducting informal seminars about cheese at area bars and in class at the 92nd St. Y. The current schedule is always up at In addition I conduct private events that are perfect to lead off birthday parties for foodies and sommeliers and also they make great entertainment for corporate team building events and associates meetings at law firms. In addition, I've been a freelance journalist for 27 years. Currently my profiles of leading musicians and filmmakers appear in the Wall Street Journal and I also wrote about sports for the Root, and for five loooong years, which included the entirety of the Isiah Thomas Knicks era, I wrote about the NBA for the New York Sun. I enjoyed writing about basketball so much that I now do it here at rotations for free.
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One Response to The Dirty Little Secret About the Jeremy Lin era Knicks

  1. frightwig says:

    Any ideas about how Lin is helping the team get so stingy on defense? Is he such a brilliant individual defender? Has the pace of the Knicks games changed a lot since he became the point guard?

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