In the wake of Jeremy Lin’s emergence (for one week, anyway) as a “Point God” there’s been a great deal of (justifiable) fretting and consternation about the impending returns to the lineup of Amar’e Stoudemire and, much much more so, Carmelo Anthony.
(Let’s be honest: He gets lumped in here, but is anyone really worried about how Amar’e is going to fit? Maybe he’s lost a little bit of explosion but he’s still looked plenty explosive to me. There’s eight seasons of evidence that he’s going to fit like really, really, really well. Like sick. Like he’s an animal.)
How will Melo react to no longer controlling the ball and, instead, being one of a number of great options at Lin’s disposal? How will he react to having to share credit for the team’s success with a 23-year-old who’s just four starts deep into his NBA career and was probably a day away getting kicked to the curb before he went on his magical run? Worse, how will he react if Lin gets more credit than he does, a scenario that looks ever more probable?
These are all reasonable questions and if Melo is having thoughts along those lines that only proves he’s human. He’s a star player with total belief in his talent. The team was struggling mightily with him at the controls. You’ll have to forgive him if he bristles at the feeling of getting kicked to the curb by the organization and its fans because an un-drafted free agent played a week of, admittedly, linsanely (had to) good basketball.
Lin claims not to care about these types of things, which is great, but Melo surely does care, so it’s not as though he’s going to be able to just bury his head in the sand. Whether Lin seeks credit or adulation is irrelevant, his most talented teammate does and, as the primary decision maker on the floor, that’s a personality and a situation he’s going to have to manage.
Make no mistake, if Lin is going to run this team, if he’s to be a respected voice on the floor and off, he’s going to have to make it all work. He’s going to have to force his stars to respect the way he runs the team and distributes the ball. And sometimes he’s going to have make hard choices that piss people off in the near term and deal with the attendant scowls and bad body language. That’s what great PGs do. That’s the job.
Lin is being given the keys to a Maserati and a Ferrari GTO, to go with the Range Rover he’s already got stashed in the garage. They may be delicately calibrated machines, but they’re high performance ones too, and he needs to get the most out of them.
To say that it’s a given that Melo will derail the Knicks’ success is defeatist and, in my opinion, runs counter to any reasonable basketball analysis of the situation. Melo is one of the five or so most devastating offensive talents in basketball. Putting him on the floor with a talented point guard should never be a bad thing (and it wasn’t in Denver where he enjoyed success with Andre Miller and Chauncey Billups).
Yes, Melo is going to have to bend, but he shouldn’t have to break. That’s where the point guard comes in and, just as much as Melo will have to embrace Lin’s suddenly enormous shadow, as the man with the ball in his hands and all the decisions to make, it’s going to be Lin’s job to make sure Melo doesn’t needlessly become a casualty of his success.