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Linsanity should take Knicks above .500 tonight, but how much farther?

Feb 17, 2012, 12:22 PM EDT

Amare Stoudemire, Jeremy Lin, Mike D'Antoni AP

Right now the Knicks are a .500 team, 15-15. Right now they are the eighth seed in the East.

Chances are that after Friday night Jeremy Lin — who will get credit regardless of how he plays — and the Knicks will be above .500 as they should knock off the Hornets (and move into a tie with the Celtics for the seven seed).

The question is, how far can they go after that?

First things first, the Hornets are a team ill-suited to play against the Knicks. They have the second-worst record in the NBA (6-23), and will be without Eric Gordon, Carl Landry, Emeka Okafor and likely Jarrett Jack due to injuries. That would be four of their starters in an ideal world. The Hornets play at the slowest pace in the league and are 1-9 against the teams in the top 10 in the league in tempo (the Knicks are third) and New Orleans is 29th in transition defense. Plus, they struggle mightily with teams that are good on the pick-and-roll — they are 22nd in the league in stopping the ball handler and 29th against the roll man.

Jeremy Lin should have room to operate, both to create looks for himself and others. Look for Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire to have big nights. Look for a few big dunks. Linsanity should be 8-0. (We say should because the Hornets did just beat Portland.)

The real question for Knicks fans is how long this ride will last?

Adding J.R. Smith and getting Carmelo Anthony back makes this team a more serious threat — these are two guys who played well off the ball in Denver. While they both can be unrepentant gunners and ball stoppers, both could thrive in the D’Antoni system. There will undoubtedly be bumps in the process but the Knicks can have Stoudemire and Lin running a pick-and-roll with Anthony and/or Smith as weakside kick-out-options that will leave opposing defenses with impossible choices.

But the real test is the Knicks schedule starting next week — Atlanta and Miami — and continuing into March. They have eight of their first 12 in March on the road. They have Boston, Dallas, San Antonio, Philly (twice), Chicago, Indiana (twice) all in the first half of March. All that puts a dent in any team’s run.

What the Knicks have going for them is their defense. Seriously. Nobody really talks about the fact they are the sixth best defense in the league (if you use points per possession). They have been a statistically better defensive team with Lin in the lineup. That is the kind of thing that sustains success.

The reality is that the tough schedule and the challenge of fitting all the pieces together in a condensed schedule it’s going to be hard for New York make up the four games they are back of the Hawks for the four seed (or the five games they are back of the 76ers for the Atlantic Division crown). To have a chance at home court in the first round the Knicks need to beat those two teams in particular, and a lot better teams in general.

But this is also a team that should have its parts coming together and finding a groove when it matters most — heading into the playoffs. They may be a lower seed, but they are not the team anybody wants in the first round. They need to move up enough to avoid Chicago and Miami in that first round — the Knicks are not on that level yet — but if they do we could see the Knicks reach the second round of the playoffs this year.

And that would cause real Linsanity in New York.

  1. pistolpeatear - Feb 17, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    If he continues to play like this how will they be able to keep Lin under contract with 50 mil in cap already going towards Chandler, Melo, and Amare?

    • pl4tinum514 - Feb 17, 2012 at 3:36 PM

      Give him shares of the team

  2. leearmon - Feb 17, 2012 at 1:51 PM

    New York has Lin’s “Early Bird Rights” and Im not sure of the exact number but the most opposing teams could ofer Lin is I believe (And im sure this number is way off) is around 120% of his contract he has now or so. Basically with New York’s Mid-Level exception the Knicks will be able to re-sgin Lin and lock him up for seasons ahead.

    To the post. While Im glad this site finally spoke of the Knicks defense, (I had been imploring you guys to do so for weeks, even before Lin started playing) New York has been playing above average defense prior to Lin getting the start. If you look at defensive efficiency, New York was I believe 10th in the league at the time Lin began getting his minutes. Also, 4-5 games behind Atlanta, Orlando and Philadelphia is not as difficult a deficit as it may seem. New York has yet to play the Hawks this season, but historically the Knicks match up well vs Hot-lanta. New York has already beaten the Sixers this season and Orlando could be looking a lot different once the trade deadline passes. In short, who knows just where New York will finish, but if history tells us anything, speaking of 1999 the only other time the NBA had a strike shortened season, A team that can get hot, healthy and finally mesh new pieces together around the start of the playoffs are going to be a dangerous team. Im not saying it will happen, but maybe history will repeat itself.

    • pistolpeatear - Feb 17, 2012 at 6:09 PM

      does he qualify for the early bird rights? I thought you have to play 2 full seasons without being waived or changing teams as a FA

  3. c4b00s3 - Feb 17, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    I think theres more to jeremy lin than just money; plus he will make tons and tons and TONS from endorsement opportunities in NYC

  4. thecrazyasianinseccountry - Feb 17, 2012 at 11:07 PM

    Never count the Chicken before it hatch because I believed your just jinxed him.. Turnover is really killing his game…

  5. losangelasbasketball - Feb 18, 2012 at 1:22 AM

    New york fans need to shut their stoopid faces…. Jeremy lin was cut by two professional nba franchises before they got him…. Hes not an elite guard and never will be…. Just stop your garbage already. People acting like they just stole d rose from chicago….gtfo

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