Yet Smart was one of many coaches — college and pro — who passed on Lin and he has no regrets.
“Everyone said, ‘Well, you should’ve played him more,’” Smart said. “Well, you had Monta Ellis, a top five NBA scorer, Steph Curry, a runner-up for Rookie of the Year. You had Acie Law and Reggie Williams and you had a young, undrafted guy who didn’t know how to play in the NBA yet.”
Smart says Lin fell into a perfect storm with the Knicks, who desperately needed a competent point guard because of the injury to Baron Davis and the ineffective play of Toney Douglas.
When I stepped into the coffee shop this morning, the cute girl behind the counter beamed. “Did you see the game last night?” she asked.
“They won by 15 points. He only scored 10 but-”
“I know. Amazing… Seven in a row.”
This is Linsanity. In the narrowest of coffee shops and out in the avenues, from the subways to high-rise office buildings, all New York City’s small talk and awkward pleasantries have been replaced by daily rehashings of Jeremy Lin’s latest heroics.
Many of us haven’t even seen most of them, but perhaps all the better. They are swiftly becoming the stuff of folk legend: This undrafted, Harvard-educated, Taiwanese-American, twice-waived point guard turning an unlikely window into the opportunity to put a seemingly forever-woeful team on his back and carry it to win after win after win after win.
It’s awesome. And the timing, in the short lull between the Giants’ improbable championship and the start of baseball’s Spring Training, is impeccable.
But after reading articles like the one from Zagoria linked above, and after a conversation with Mike Salfino yesterday, I urge you to consider something too frequently overlooked in sports: Think of all the scenarios in which Jeremy Lin — this Jeremy Lin, Linsanity — never happens. Think of the slew of injuries and setbacks it took to get Lin on the Knicks’ roster, and the numerous ways and reasons Lin might have been cut before he ever got a chance to shine.
Then try to tell me there aren’t 100 guys bagging groceries or selling phones somewhere with the talent and the drive to succeed in professional sports who haven’t yet and likely never will get that chance.
It’s that randomness thing again. Lin’s story is an amazing one, and he deserves all the credit he’s currently getting on every corner. The Knicks have won seven straight games with him running the point, and even if he ultimately regresses a bit Lin has likely proven himself a viable NBA player who’ll earn millions in the game.
But as heartwarming and unifying and stunningly awesome as this is, it should also be another reminder not to count out athletes with histories of success at every level just because they’ve been counted out before. Stories like Lin’s are great because they are so rare, but they are by no means unprecedented. Sometimes the entire professional sporting establishment just misses a guy. Sometimes that guy eventually gets a shot, and, I’m assuming, many times he does not.
Today’s Daily News sports section: