Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 5/7/12
Attempting to conjure Linsanity the Sequel as early as Wednesday night may not qualify for asylum consideration, but it does seem a bit nutty. Desperation has a way of nudging otherwise prudent thinkers off the rails. Checking in as our desperadoes are the New York Knicks, who are overdue to rotate the tires on their gurney. Since launching their playoff series with the second-seeded Miami Heat, the Knicks and their fans have witnessed a knee injury to rookie guard Iman Shumpert, a moment of five-alarm stupidity by glass-breaking Amar'e Stoudemire, and the knee destruction of veteran point guard Baron Davis. The loss of Davis in Game 4 didn't prevent the Knicks from earning a stay of first-round execution, but they now sit at 1-3, going to Miami for Wednesday's Game 5 with Mike Bibby or even Toney Douglas (cough!) running the offense. Unless ... well, yeah, Jeremy Lin could be available. Here's the question: should they be considering this? In case you've dismissed Linsanity as quickly as it arrived to temporarily shake the NBA, please note that Jeremy had surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee about a month ago. For the last few days, the unlikely savior of New York's mid-season has been slowly working toward a return that was predicted for a second round we didn't expect the Knicks to have. And we still don't. The bitter reality at hand co-stars those hesitant villains from Miami, who aren't likely to lose four in a row to a Knicks team with Davis, Lin or anyone else we can muster at point guard. So, why risk it? Before you begin banging your fist on the alter of loyalty, toughness and any other macho context that's easy for us to embrace, please note Lin wouldn't be the only risk-taker in this tricky situation. But we can start with him. OK, since dribbling to glory after riding the end of three NBA benches, Lin finds himself without a contract for next season. Re-injuring the knee could absolutely kill his market value in this summer's free-agent derby. Shouldn't we assume the Knicks' medical staff would never allow him to play if the knee wasn't completely ready for NBA-playoff-level competition? We'd like to believe it. But even if he has their official okey-dokey, a month away from a basketball intensity he's never experienced could put him at conditioning, timing and balance deficits that could diminish the quality of his footwork and lead to injury. Right, the risk for Lin -- a young player who hasn't made much (relative to his union brothers) loot in pro basketball -- is considerable. Putting the decision in the hands of a young player who's yet to make his playoff bones would be irresponsible. Lobbing the when-the-tough-get-going platitudes at the kid is a snap for those of us who don't have to live with the consequences. Before visiting the flip side of the aforementioned risk-taking, please note that having Lin probably wouldn't do much to accelerate the Knicks' chances of winning. Although they can't expect Carmelo Anthony to put 41 on LeBron James and Shane Battier again, New York will continue to run its offense through the superstar three man. This means having a point guard with reasonable pick-and-roll viability isn't as important now as it was when 'Melo was injured and Stoudemire was out of the lineup for personal reasons. Yeah, Lin might pose more of a threat than Bibby or Douglas, but the former does maintain the capacity to knock in an open jumper created off an Anthony attack from the wing or elbow. We're also not suggesting Lin's 1-for-11 shooting, 8-turnover effort in his last date with the Heat (Feb. 23) defines his potential against Miami, but the on-ball defensive ability of Mario Chalmers and help-recover quickness surrounding him would put Jeremy at a great disadvantage after one month on the sidelines. On the defensive end, getting down in an acceptable stance would be no hay ride after meniscus surgery. But Miami's offense doesn't provide many drive-and-kick opportunities for Chalmers, so Lin's main task would be tracking him on spot-up chances. Let's get back to the risky business. In case you hadn't noticed, the Knicks are up to their eyeballs in big contracts. We've already established their lack of point-guard depth, so it stands to reason that this summer's shopping list would have that position at or near the top. Unless some other team is in the market for a pricey power forward who punches fire-alarm glass, using the mid-level exception seems like the best way to hire a point guard. It had been presumed that Lin -- a restricted free agent -- would be the lead candidate. But while the Knicks can match another team's contract offer sheet, they don't possess his full Bird rights. Becoming a full Bird requires three years of service, and Lin was a waiver acquisition this season, setting his Bird status at zero. Since he now would be one year on the Bird meter, the Knicks could only fork over 120 percent of the minimum, which may not be enough to match another team's offer. But they could find sufficient loot by reaching into their mid-level exception fund (5 million). Right, if Lin's knee crashes, the Knicks could allow him to limp into free agency and use the mid-level on someone else. But they'd run the risk of not finding a starting-quality point guard for 5 big ones. The drum beat for Steve Nash will be loud, for example, but Mike D'Antoni no longer holds the drum sticks. The 2012 draft pool is low on point-guard talent, but the Knicks (Tracy McGrady trade with Houston) don't have a first-round pick this year. Hey, the Knicks might be able to find another capable playmaker for 5 million, but there would be risk involved. And so would allowing Lin -- a player they know they probably can afford -- to take the floor against a Heat team that could have handled New York with a completely healthy roster. I don't know what his agent is saying, but the competitor in Lin probably wants to join the fight with his teammates. Unfortunately, any measure of individual valor could jeopardize one option in the team's quest to sign a competent point guard before next season. I don't doubt that Lin is capable of returning and making a contribution in Game 5 without getting hurt. I just don't think the reward is worth the risk.
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