If I were a Knick fan, or if I had attended an elite East Coast university without much of a contemporary sports profile, I’d probably be joining in in the #linsanity. Lin also appears to have been adopted by a certain segment of popular progressives. @KatrinaNation was tweeting about the new star from half-time or so in his first game. @mattyglesias shared a picture from his menfolk get-together just prior to last night’s tip-off. After the star turn that Lin proceeded to offer up against the Lakers, before a nationwide ESPN audience, @chrislhayes was so excited he was tweeting about his #linsomnia.
Now, I have no idea whether Katrina, Matt, and Chris’s counterparts on the right are not also effusively tweeting about Lin, but he suits the broad Obama coalition: He’s a child of immigrants, for an athlete he looks a bit like a super-nerd, and he plays smart and tricky, not brutal, and is as articulate as you’d expect a guy from Harvard with an economics degree to be. It adds up as the allies of what Gingich or Romney might call the “faculty lounge” + Spike Lee + big liberal city + international peace, love, and understanding… V hopenchangey.
But how good is Lin really? He combines excellent court awareness with a smooth shot and ball skills, and his more Nash than Paul style meshes well with D’Antoni’s offense. He also clearly seems to be enjoying himself, has some flashy moves, and says all of the right things about team play. Observing on ESPN, Magic judged him for real. Magic may be given to stray over-enthusiasms – in fact over-enthusiasm is almost his specialty – but I’m willing to grant that he probably knows almost as much about playing point guard in the NBA as I do. It’s been stated (but I can’t quite vouch for this one) that Lin is the first NBA player to score 20 or more points in each of his first three starts since Isiah Thomas 30 years ago, and Lin’s four-game streak already stacks up impressively in historical-statistical terms. So Lin appears to have some history behind him, even if to my knowledge no one has yet declared him the second Isiah (or maybe the second Second Isaiah…).
On the other hand, Lin would hardly be the first player, in basketball as in other pro sports, to come out of nowhere and surprise opponents who have not yet broken down his game, and the strike-condensified NBA this year is vulnerable to surprise. His and the Knicks’ opposition over the four-game span has included two very bad teams, one reasonably good team whose strength is not in the backcourt, and, last night, an older Laker team that’s been horrible on the road this year, that was coming off an emotional overtime win in Boston the previous night, and that starts the slowest point guard in the league and has either an out-of-playing-shape Steve Blake or an out-of-position offensive-minded rookie to back him up.
So Lin’s not yet really been tested, but he’s clearly earned the right to a real test, to take place after whatever inevitable, likely impending drop-offs both in his performance and in attention from the wide world.