Let’s go back in time to February, 14th 2012, Valentine’s Day but also known as the peak of “Linsanity.”
The New York Knicks were playing the Toronto Raptors in Toronto in front of almost 21,000 screaming fans mostly due to Asian Heritage night. It had been a struggle for the Knicks all game due to not being able to stop the Raptors scoring in the paint and Jeremy Lin’s inability to defend Jose Calderon.
All of a sudden the Knicks storm back and with 17 seconds left the score is tied at 87, then the phenomenon called “Linsanity” reaches an all-time high. Jeremy Lin is able to waive off a timeout by coach Mike D’Antoni and force a “clear out” against Calderon then after a few dribbles, he drains the go-ahead three pointer with 0.5 seconds left in the game. After a quick Toronto missed field goal, the Knicks won the game and Lin’s celebrity never shined brighter.
However, the question that was constantly asked was by everyone, “Is Lin a product of D’Antoni’s system or could he eventually be a successful point guard?”
A month later, Mike D’Antoni resigned as New York Knicks after conflict with management and his star small forward Carmelo Anthony. Twelve days later, Lin’s season was cut short with an eventual season ending knee injury. Consequently, the NBA never got a chance to see Jeremy Lin orchestrate Mike Woodson’s system. It was safe to say that Jeremy Lin’s “seventeen” seconds of fame was up.
Mike Woodson is former NBA player and former head coach of the Atlanta Hawks. He signed on as a defensive assistant coach before the 2011-12 season with the Knicks but was quickly promoted after D’Antoni’s resignation. Nevertheless, the Knicks embraced his coaching style and went 18-6 in the regular season before losing in the first round of the playoffs in five games to the Miami Heat.
Woodson’s coaching style is much like his personality which is old school and no-nonsense similar to his college coach, Bobby Knight. Over the years, Woodson has proven that he can improve a team and get to them to the playoffs but his success usually ends early in the playoffs without any substantial progress.
In analyzing his coaching career, Woodson was able to take a 13 win team to 37 wins in three years by preaching defense and execution. However, with what his team possessed in defensive schemes, the offensive schemes seemed lacking. His offense appeared to be dull and consist of isolation plays for his star shooting guard, Joe Johnson.
After three straight playoffs exits, his coaching style and contract were not renewed. The problem was that with running an offense through a perimeter player, it hindered the decision making of the point guard who generally runs the offense. This approach is the complete opposite of Mike D’Antoni’s system where the point guard runs a motion offense and requires little defense.
Furthermore, in analyzing both systems there are some glaring differences which ultimately do not benefit Jeremy Lin. Woodson runs a controlled offense which does not deviate much responsibility from the point guard.
In fact, during his time in Atlanta while starting Mike Bibby, Bibby averaged 5.1 assists and 1.7 turnovers per game from 2007-2010. Bibby’s lack of ball handling responsibility limited his turnovers. Conversely, during Mike D’Antoni’s success with the Phoenix Suns, his starting point guard Steve Nash averaged 11.2 assists and 3.6 turnovers per game from 2004 2008. Nash completely controlled the offense even though he averaged almost 4 turnovers a game.
The fact is Jeremy Lin was able to flourish in a system where he could average double digit assists but commit frequent turnovers. Furthermore, D’Antoni’s reliance on Lin was his gift and his curse. When Carmelo Anthony was injured, D’Antoni was able to run his system but when Anthony returned he became frustrated with the motion offense which led to D’Antoni’s exit.
During the 2011-12 season from February 6th to March 24th, Jeremy Lin averaged 4.5 turnovers a game and his defensive struggles against opposing point guards were well documented, but he was viewed as the catalyst to the Knicks resurgence. In Mike Woodson’s system, mistakes are minimized and defense is priority which coincidentally is both of Lin’s weaknesses.
So how could regain his potential in Woodson’s system? Lin could adapt his game similar to Bibby’s during his days in Atlanta. In the isolation offense, Bibby was able to maintain a respectable 41 % field goal percentage and 37 % three point percentage; however Lin is not a very good outside shooter and known as more of a slashing guard.
There does not seem to be many options for Lin in New York’s current scheme. He could either adapt his game to the system or hope Carmelo Anthony gets injured again. Nevertheless, his “seventeen” seconds of fame are clearly up.