Happy Valentine's Day. There may not be another Valentine's Day like this ever for the Toronto Raptors. Having covered the Raptors for a normal game a time or two, the amount of media to welcome Jeremy Lin is off the charts. The last time I can remember the Raptors having to use the media lounge to hold a press conference in that room was for the Big 3 and the return of Chris Bosh to Toronto. There could be more people on hand today, for the arrival of the biggest story in the NBA this season. You almost forget that all of this Linsanity has taken place with the Knicks two biggest stars a couple weeks ago on the sidelines. Amare Stoudemire has been away from the team due to the tragic death of his brother. Carmelo Anthony may only be heading to the All-Star Game thanks to fan voting. He has been out with a groin injury.
But people only seem to care about Jeremy Lin these days. Spike Lee, the world's most famous Knick fan has turned his twitter account into basically the evaluation center for your Jeremy Lin nicknames. There is just no real comparable story that I can recall in watching basketball from being a kid back in the 80's.
The Raptors seem to like the big stage of late. They had a solid performance down in Miami not that long ago, Beat the Celtics and came oh so close to upsetting the Lakers. This may sound silly, but in terms of a stage to perform on this season, it might not get any bigger than it is tonight. Yes that includes when Chris Bosh and the Heat roll through in the end of March. Chris Bosh could only dream of having the attention of Jeremy Lin.
If we go back in time when Lin was released by the Warriors, I had thought Toronto would have been a good landing spot. The Raptors are now out in the media saying they strongly considered him. Apparently so strongly that they signed Anthony Carter instead? There is a chance we might see Carter get some minutes guarding Lin, if Jerryd Bayless is not able to go. He is a game time decision for anyone that cares about anything not related to Linsanity. Carter or for that matter Calderon don't seem like much of a match for the Jeremy Lin show. Although, the Calderon we saw vs the Lakers can hold his own scoring with Lin.
As much as I might take credit for seeing Lin as a fit for the Raptors. That was as 3rd point guard flyer that would draw some media buzz. But here is something I got very wrong. I picked the Knicks to win the Atlantic Division, and I really didn't see it as much of stretch. They did lack a point guard, but I figured they would find a way to acquire one and maybe even get really lucky and get a bargin price for Steve Nash. Instead, the Knicks lack of a point guard was glaring and until Jeremy Lin jumped into the spotlight, the Knicks were no lock to make the playoffs let alone win the division. Now you have Lin and Stoudemire expected to return shortly. Not sure if that means as soon as tonight but soon. Mello eventually will be back and that will be the test. Will these two superstars fall in line and let the Linsanity continue. Do they even have a choice at this point? Can Lin do what I thought a Nash would do and give the Knicks the balance needed for both Stoudemire and Mello to be effective. That will be the test.
For the Raptors the test on this night is pretty much how they defend the pick and roll. A lot of what Jeremy Lin does is based on his ability to work the pick and roll in the half court. He is not the world's greatest shooter from the outside yet. But did poke holes in that theory vs the Lakers. My money says that Dwane Casey is going to throw a lot of zone looks at Lin and the Knicks to see how they handle that. The Comparison of the story of Jeremy Lin and his quick rise to the biggest story in sports compares to Tim Tebow. However, the comparison stops there. Lin has not re-invented how you play the game of basketball. He is consistent for most of the 48 minutes of a game that he is on the floor. Tebow used an offensive style that has not been used in the NFL in likely 50 years and had magical finishes after horrible beginnings. That is not Jeremy Lin.
3 keys for tonight:
1. Defend the Pick and Roll: How the Raptors defend this will ultimately determine there fate more than anything else. If Lin is able to work the pick and roll with little difficulty you can expect Linsanity to continue and the Raptors to get carved up.
2. Transition D: In the system the Knicks run it is all about getting the ball and running. Steve Nash was the greatest conductor of this system. He would make the scoreboard pop like a pinball machine. Making stars out of average players. So the Raptors have to be alert in transition and avoid turnovers that can lead to breaks.
3. Attack the hoop: Knicks really lack any kind of shot blockers that you would fear. Especially minus Stoudemire. So attack them and take everything to the paint early and often. You turn this into a jump shooting contest and you are playing into the Knicks hands.
That about does it other than to remind you that we have are MGDDNBVIP Contest #2 that ends at the conclusion of this game. If you missed the video yesterday here is the guys from our Round Ball Review with the contest details:
Good Luck and after this contest will have 2 more chances to win between now and Thursday.