The Knicks are finally the hottest ticket in town and it has nothing to do with their two superstars.
But now that Jeremy Lin fever has overtaken the city, Amar’e Stoudemire (death in the family) and Carmelo Anthony (groin) are poised to return after being out of the lineup for over a week. Stoudemire should return tonight, while Anthony should return in a few games.
Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni said the sky’s the limit once they come back to the starting lineup and isn’t afraid the return of Anthony and Stoudemire will muck up his offense.
“I know everybody is worried when guys get back, but it’s only going to get better,” D’Antoni said. “Everybody has to adjust their games a little bit, but they’ve seen the benefits of guys winning. I think everybody is tuned in. And when Melo and Amar’e come back together that’ll leave guys like Tyson [Chandler] even more open, in theory.”
The most pressing concern is that once Anthony comes back, his penchant for the isolation play, which leaves teammates just standing around, will slow down production. Anthony, for his part, didn’t fan the flames by vehemently combating that and simply smiled and shrugged off the criticism.
Anthony called the assumptions “silly” and added “It’s funny to me. … I know my game.” He then allowed that having Lin in the starting lineup is a “dream come true” and “it takes a load off me.”
Lin is as savvy in front of a microphone as he is on the floor and was deferential to Anthony, saying his skill-set will actually help the team as a whole. Lin added he doesn’t see any reason why Anthony’s presence will be a hindrance.
“I can see why they’re questioning it [cohesion] only because he’s a playmaker as well and he’s used to having the ball in his hands a lot,” Lin said of Anthony’s upcoming return. “But when he comes back we’ll just continue what we’re doing that works for us because in my opinion he’s an underrated passer. He’s improved and his alley-oop chemistry with Tyson was great before he got hurt.”
Stoudemire sees Lin-Nash ‘similarities’
The Knick’ system seems to perfectly suit Jeremy Lin, as the slippery point guard has actually conjured images of another dynamic point guard-power forward duo under D’Antoni of years past —Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire.
Lin was quick to distance himself from the Steve Nash comparisons.
“I’m very careful to not compare myself to a two-time league MVP,” Lin said.
But he did say he’s looking forward to building a similar bond with Stoudemire over time.
Stoudemire, however, didn’t do Lin any favors when he was happy to oblige with the comparisons.
“I see similarities in their games in that he’s playing totally unselfish, taking what the defense gives him and he’s studying hard. That’s what you want from your point guard — to be a facilitator and get guys involved and get guys open high-percentage shots. He also gets to the rim, which opens up guys,” Stoudemire said of the comparisons between Nash and Lin.
» D’Antoni said during his NBA tenure he’s never seen anything quite like this “Linsanity”: “It’s because he really came out of nowhere and that’s not normal. Either you’re a first-round pick and everybody goes ‘Look at that’ or you’re overlooked. And that’s what he was, overlooked. But he’s probably been overlooked his last 20 years, probably since grade school. But to his credit he’s kept plugging away and now he’s gotten the opportunity here and he’s making the most of it.”
D’Antoni said more than Lin’s skills, he’s been equally impressed with his perseverance: “Now, along the way I’m sure people liked him because he’s been picked off wavers twice and a lot of guys don’t get picked up off waivers. Somebody obviously saw something in him, but [at that time] it wasn’t enough to get him over the hump. … Sometimes the situation just wasn’t available. In fact, if we hadn’t gotten hurt maybe we wouldn’t have known about him. Who knows? But the guy has taken advantage of a lucky break.
»While D’Antoni acknowledged what Lin has brought to the table but insisted it’s been a team effort: “It’s more than just him. Obviously it’s been great and a nice side dish but just the way they’ve willed their way to win. I’m just happy for the guys because they stuck by each other through tough times and stayed together. We’re not out of the woods yet. We’ve got a long ways to go still.”
He then joked that people in the city are actually speaking to him again: “They talk to me now because we’ve won five in a row. Usually they hide from me. There’s a lot of excitement when you win but the Garden is always loud regardless. The mood is great around here.”
» D’Antoni on the notion that Anthony will mess things up was “silly” and will in fact only enhance Anthony’s skills because he’ll no longer be counted on to carry the entire load: “We were asking Carmelo to do a lot [like] initiate the offense and getting everybody started. But now he can go back to what he does best. The ball will still move and he’ll be able to take advantage of what’s happening.”
»Lin has been “humbled” by all the attention and current hot streak and said it’s just been the perfect storm of opportunity, his skill-set and D’Antoni’s offense: “His system is a lot more spacing and involves the four-man [power forward] a lot and a lot more pick-and-roll. That’s good because I like to attack the basket and come off pick-and-rolls. And with this offense there’s a lot of spacing and chances to do that. Almost every play is going to end up in a pick-and-roll and that more suits me.”
»Anthony joked about Lin’s status and said he actually had fun in sitting back and watching: “I think it’s great. Everybody loves an underdog. … He’s our Rudy.”
Stoudemire agreed and said this city especially loves a great underdog story: “It’s the media capital of the world, so when a sensation comes up that’s what happens. We saw that with [Victor] Cruz on the Giants. And now we have Jeremy Lin with the Knicks.”
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.