PHOENIX — As linsane as these past seven games have been for the Knicks’ newest star, it surely seems sacrilegious to compare him to Steve Nash when Mr. Linsanity owns less career starts than Two Time has All-Star berths, a notion that has been bandied about in the media and by no less an authority than Amare Stoudemire.
Amare said if he keeps improving, Lin will “be right there with Nash.”
Although Nash has been routinely delivering the kind of performances over the past decade that Lin has produced the last week and a half, it’s a bit early for those kind of comparisons. However, many similarities do exist between the star point guards beyond thriving in a pick-and-roll system designed by Mike D’Antoni.
Like Lin, Nash drew seldom any attention out of high school and faced long odds just to reach the NBA. Both players struggled to begin their NBA careers but took off when the right opportunity presented itself.
“There’s definitely similarities,” Nash said after Wednesday’s loss to the Hawks. “I had one scholarship offer, fought my way to be good enough to go to college, proved enough to go to college and proved enough to be drafted. He did the same and he got his opportunity at Harvard and got good enough that he could make the NBA and now he’s got his opportunity.”
Although Nash was already an established All-Star when he encountered the tutelage of Mike D’Antoni whereas Lin toiled on D’Antoni’s bench in obscurity for weeks, both players transformed into megastars running his offense.
As we saw earlier this season when the Knicks possessed no such player, D’Antoni’s offense requires an uber-intelligent point guard adept at reading a pick and roll to run at its optimum efficiency. The Nash-D’Antoni marriage vaulted Nash to the stratospheric heights of a two-time MVP and a likely Hall of Famer and it’s turning Lin into a hotter sports story than Tim Tebow.
ESPN’s J.A. Adande wrote that “the system” explains why Lin has flourished after bouncing between the end of NBA benches and the D-League, but the man who made “the system” famous disagrees.
“I think he’s a good player,” Nash said. “I think everybody makes a big deal about the system when the guy’s finishing on Bynum and Gasol and he’s making game-winning threes. He’s a good player. I think he’d be successful in most systems.”
“The system” is one of the ways society has rationalized how everybody has been so wrong about Lin over the years and Nash is likely sensitive to that explanation of Lin’s success because critics have explained Nash’s sudden transformation into a Hall of Famer upon learning D’Antoni’s system the same way.
Surely, this system has played a role in both players’ success (as well as that of Chris Duhon and Ray Felton as D’Antoni point guards), but it still takes a special player to reel off the kind of run Lin is on.
So now instead of being the point guard savior that many Knicks fans yearned for, Nash is just like the rest of the basketball world, watching in amazement as the best story to hit the NBA in years takes over the Big Apple.
“It’s a perfect storm,” Nash said. “He’s a guy who is in some ways a late bloomer and an overachiever, and you can tell that he’s worked extremely hard and he’s also smart so he’s learned how to be effective. Then maybe the biggest part of the story is he joined a struggling Knicks team in the media capital of the world, so it’s just an awesome confluence of things and it’s been exciting to watch.”
- Nash has taken to Twitter to express his Lin love, tweeting, “If you love sports you have to love what Jeremy Lin is doing. Getting an opportunity and exploding!!” and “Its crazy! I’m watching Linsanity hoping every shot goes in. Hope I never grow up.”
- Head coach Alvin Gentry told Suns.com’s Stefan Swiat that he’s “never seen anything like this” in his basketball career. “I think he’s captured the NBA,” Gentry said.