Why Lin Mattered

Brian DiMenna

This is not about the decision to let Jeremy Lin go, a decision that now looks almost sage at this point, albeit one I admittedly thought a disaster at the time, but rather just about that experience.

Whether you never bought into the hype of the heady days of Linsanity, or you have a closet filled with Lin-inspired paraphernalia you now deeply regret, there’s no arguing it was something we’ve almost never seen before.

If you consider where the Knicks stood at the start of it, 8-15, losers of 11 of their last 13 games, in a season in which they entered openly talking about championships, it was as disappointing a time for the Knicks in a decade-long era of chronic Knicks disappointment. The Carmelo/Amar’e pairing, one that had seemed so enticing only months earlier, now seemed like just another ill-conceived project among a litany of bad Knicks ideas.

It was here we go again all over again.

And then Lin happened.

It wasn’t just how well he played — which we should remind ourselves, was VERY, VERY well — it was the swagger the kid had. Out of nowhere, he was dropping game-winning threes as though of course he would. This random, skinny, and yes, Asian point guard had transformed another dreary season into something so much different, and better.

If you care about sports, enough to hang around blogs like this one, it’s to watch the gifted athlete, for sure, but it’s also the chance to see something completely unexpected. Sometimes it’s Mark Sanchez running into his lineman’s shorts, but sometimes it’s a complete unknown taking you for a most unexpected and refreshing ride.

So I get the backlash now to Lin’s time in New York. The insane hype, the outrage at letting him go and the simple fact that it’s very possible he just isn’t that good, can make a cynic out of us all. But it doesn’t mean we still can’t appreciate what happened here last season. It was pure basketball joy, a two-week carnival when you could barely stand the wait til you could turn on the TV again to see if this thing could possibly continue, as you were sure it couldn’t, and yet for a while it did.

Look, I like Ray Felton, WE ALL like Ray Felton, who’s played so well this season he’s made the Lin decision all but moot. And after years of chasing wild ideas and fool-hardy strategies, the Knicks very well may have been wise to hang their hats on the sureness of Felton’s stability, instead of chasing a dream in Jeremy Lin.

And I think they were right, but it still makes me nervous. Linsanity may have been little more than a dream, but I hope we didn’t stop chasing dreams, just as they were about to come true.

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