Thursday, February 09, 2012

02/09 (Duke!) Quickie

A couple weeks ago, I was playing in my weekly pick-up hoops game and -- for once -- was just shooting the lights out. It all culminated in a long jumpshot I made at game point (which even included me muttering "that's good" as the ball left my hand). I walked off the court feeling like a million bucks.

I can't believe how Austin Rivers must be feeling, after lighting up UNC for 29, the final 3 coming at the buzzer after a crazy Duke comeback on the Heels' home court. It was the Play of the Year in college basketball and the official arrival of Rivers -- a heralded freshman -- as a college hoops mega-star.

You don't want to put too much weight on any win or loss during a college basketball regular season -- at least as it relates to the NCAA Tournament, which is (sorry, UNC and Duke fans) all that matters when you get to the elite level. Duke is still too inconsistent; UNC has no heart.

But sometimes -- for the biggest rivalries or the great comebacks or the buzzer-beating moments or a star player coming into his own -- you can set that aside and simply revel in an amazing sports moment.

Meanwhile, Linsanity continues. The sports story of the week -- and NBA story of the year -- continued last night as Jeremy Lin came to D.C. and led the Knicks to another win, with yet another stellar performance. The combination of his play, his exuberance and the team obviously rallying around him -- not to mention the backstory that has everyone rooting for him -- is incredible.

It is a very open question what happens when Carmelo comes back. He is the alpha friend who isn't around when your group of pals goes on an amazing road trip or has a phenomenal night out, then comes back and says "Hey, I'm back!" and everyone else sort of looks up and says, "Well, honestly, we just had the best time ever, but you sort of had to be there." Things are never the same.

Are the Knicks better without Carmelo? We'll see -- it's unlikely, but chemistry is a fickle thing. Here's the reality: This team wasn't going to win a championship with Carmelo anyway. If the standard is Are the Knicks a solid playoff team? then I'm not sure they're better off with him if it means disrupting the flow of the rest of the team.

We've seen this movie before: The Knicks had a great collection of solid if not spectacular players who knew how to play well together; they traded most of that group for Carmelo, and now they are winning big together in Denver while Carmelo has led the depleted, Melo-focused Knicks all the way to the top of the list of East teams not in the playoffs right now.

If Carmelo can adapt his game to fit Lin's game -- yes, you read that right -- then the Knicks could surge into something special this spring. If Carmelo demands that the rest of the team -- including Lin -- change their new chemistry in order to accommodate Carmelo's ball-dominance, then they may find themselves looking back at this week of Linsanity as the best things got.

-- D.S.

No comments: