Courtside: Linsanity vs. reality

Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin (left) drives to the basket against 76ers forward Thaddeus Young...

Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin (left) drives to the basket against 76ers forward Thaddeus Young during third quarter action at Madison Square Garden in New York on Sunday, March 11, 2012. (Adam Hunger/Reuters)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:23 PM ET

TORONTO - Somewhere in between the over-the-top hoops hype that ushered in Linsanity and Jeremy Lin’s recent struggles lies reality.

The one-time apple of the Big Apple is neither the second coming of Steve Nash, but neither is he a Steve Alford, the one-time can’t miss prospect out of Indiana who couldn’t miss a shot from any spot on the floor.

Had the media not anointed Lin as the second coming so quickly, his struggles would be dismissed as just another young player learning the point position that requires time to refine.

But it’s amazing how so many are beginning to jump off the Lin bandwagon.

It’s true that Lin tends to leave his feet when making a pass, that athleticism and quickness forced teams to get into Lin’s grill.

As the Knicks headed to Chicago to play the Bulls Monday night, there’s more to worry about than the state of Lin’s game.

The Knicks, as a team, have been woeful, losers of five straight heading into the Windy City, residing five games under .500 and perilously close to missing out on the post-season after last year’s return to the playoffs following years of mediocrity and managerial incompetence.

Everyone knew what the Knicks were getting into when they signed J.R. Smith, who got into hot water by posting an inappropriate photo on his Twitter account quicker than Carmelo Anthony attempts a heave when the ball is in his hands.

Everyone understood it would take time to get Melo, Amare Stoudemire and Lin on the same page, while keeping New York’s supporting cast engaged, especially on offence.

And truth be told, everyone saw the Knicks coming back to earth when most people should have known they weren’t as good as their record once indicated.

Like anything else, New York needs to find that balance, while Lin needs to experience more growth only experience can provide.

Under the media glare in New York, it’s virtually impossible for any of the above to play out when just about every turnover or blown opportunity gets scrutinized and over analyzed.

This off-season, Lin needs to hit the weight room and get stronger.

He’ll also have to work on a three-point shot.

And in time, the true Jeremy Lin will be revealed for all to see.

What people lose sight of is the sheer skill of NBA players, many of whom are just an opportunity away from posting numbers that will grab your attention.

“Jeremy is going to have some nights that are not going to be perfect, but he knows how to win, and he figures it out as the game goes on,” Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters following his team’s loss to Philly on Sunday.

“Notwithstanding some of the geniuses we have in this league, he is going to be a very good point guard. I read that now somebody is quoted as saying he’s going to be a mediocre or backup point guard, probably the same guy who said two years ago that he couldn’t play at all.

“This guy is going to be good. He is going to have some growing pains, but his heart, brain and athleticism are too good to not be good.”

There’s nothing wrong with being good.

In Lin’s case, expectations got completely out of whack — many dubbed him as great, which he isn’t.

Chicago’s Derrick Rose is a great point guard, the NBA’s reigning MVP who needed to add a perimeter game to take his game to a different level.

Lin’s a Harvard grad for a reason and he’ll figure things out.

AROUND THE RIM

Ricky Rubio has many fans in the league, including opposing players and coaches. A lot of Rubio’s appeal is the way he plays the game, a flair that has drawn comparisons to Pistol Pete Maravich and a selfishness that immediately endeared Rubio to his Minnesota teammates. When word leaked that Rubio would miss the rest of the season because of a knee injury, many players took to social media to express their support. On the weekend, Denver head coach George Karl wore an FC Barcelona jersey during his pre-game availability. “I felt bad for Ricky Rubio,” Karl said of the Spanish sensation ... A shortened season featuring a compressed schedule has led to many injuries this season, a toll that was expected. People want to take issue with the league, but the NBA’s players knew what was in store when they agreed to a new deal. Then there’s the case of Cleveland’s Omri Casspi, who’s been a bust for the Cavs after the forward hurt his knee training with the Israeli national team last summer. In Cleveland, Casspi has yet to score more than 14 points in any game.

SILLY AND SILLIER SEASON

In the media cauldron that is New York, David Lee heard his named bandied in rumours almost as often as he got touches in the post.

For every 100 rumours that circulate, 10 can be classified as having some merit and from there only one actually comes to fruition.

It’s called the silly season for a reason, an exercise that is downright foolish given the 24-hour news cycle.

As Thursday’s NBA trade deadline approaches, Lee has learned how to handle the whole process having seen the craziness up close during his stint with the Knicks.

“You think you’re going to get traded four or five times every single deadline,” Lee said. “I learned to ignore it, and I think other guys are doing the same thing, because we really have no control.”

Lee, of course, is right, but too often the wrong approach is taken when players hear their name in speculation.

Lee’s Golden State Warriors have been playing well of late and are said to be involved in trade discussions, which is hardly news when you consider every club GM is always out to improve his team.

Remember that sign and trade deal involving Chris Bosh for Lee?

We’ll still waiting.

REVERSAL OF FORTUNE

Keith Smart is no dummy.

After watching his Sacramento Kings get crowned by the host Mavericks, Smart vowed to have his team better prepared for Dallas’ visit to California.

What unfolded would be one of the season’s biggest reversals in fortune, a much-needed boost for a Kings team that’s at home for an extended stretch of games.

“I told the guys we would not be the same team when we see Dallas again,” Smart said. “I just knew the work I was going to try to put in with my staff we wouldn’t be the same team. We may lose the game, but we wouldn’t be the same team that showed up in Dallas.”

In Dallas, the Kings lost 99-60 on Jan. 14.

Last Friday, the Kings downed the Mavs 110-97.

Even the least inclined mathematician can figure out a 50-point turn is pretty remarkable.

The win ended a 10-game losing slide versus the Mavs.

No matter what Smart accomplishes in Sacramento, it will pale to his game-winning basket that helped Indiana beat Syracuse in the 1987 NCAA final played in New Orleans.

This years marks the 25th anniversary of that title tip.

WIZARDS NEED LOTS OF HELP

Word around the league is that the Washington Wizards are open to any kind of business heading into the trade deadline, as long as John Wall is not involved.

If a deal is simply too tempting to pass up, moving Wall must be explored.

The Wizards have been a joke and many in basketball wonder how GM Ernie Grunfeld continues to hold down a job.

One of the biggest problems in Washington is owner Ted Leonsis, who thinks he knows sports when he really doesn’t, which does not make him unique in today’s sporting universe where business tycoons view their properties as toys.

“If any moves need to be made, I leave that up to the general manager and the owner," Wall said. “But I like the team I have.

“When we play as a team and if we play great defensively, move the ball, we’re a great team.”

The same can apply to the Bobcats, Hornets, Raptors, Pistons, Kings, Nets, name a deficient team and team play, great defence and ball movement will cure all.

“We have a lot of talent here, it’s just how can you put it all together?

BIG GAMES

LA Lakers at Memphis, Tuesday

The Gasol brothers renew their sibling rivalry as trade rumours swirl around Pau.

Miami at Chicago, Wednesday

Rematch of last year’s East final and in all likelihood a preview of this year’s final.

New Jersey at Orlando, Friday

Will Superman continue to don his cape in central Florida or sport a New Jersey?


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