The Knicks currently find themselves in the same position they were in last year after their first two playoff games: Down 0-2 with injuries to important players (Chauncey Billups and Amar’e Stoudemire last year, Iman Shumpert and Amare Stoudemire this year). After two agonizing, close losses to the Celtics, Knicks fans couldn’t help but wonder what could’ve been if the team had a full, healthy roster. We all remember the ending: the Celtics marched into MSG and won the next two games to complete the sweep.
This time around, the feeling is not the same. The Knicks have been outplayed so far in this year’s playoff series against the Miami Heat. They were completely embarrassed in Game 1’s 32-point loss and despite a better showing in Game 2, they lost by double digits and tied the NBA record for consecutive playoff losses with 12.
As it was last year, the Knicks have injuries to blame: Tyson Chandler’s flu, the absence of Jeremy Lin, Shumpert’s unfortunate game one accident, Baron Davis’ back, Jared Jeffrie’s knees and even Mike Bibby has been seen limping. All of this before Stoudemire’s fire extinguisher incident after Game 2.
While it may be wise to assume a fully healthy Knicks roster could contend better with the Heat, it is too late in this season and series to find out if they can. So even if they can find a way to get a win in Game 3, the Knicks should resist bringing Jeremy Lin back in this series.
There have been reports since the start of the series that Lin has been working out and participating in drills with the hopes of coming back for Sunday’s Game 4. If he were to return, it would be ahead of schedule, as the early prognosis had him coming back for the Eastern Conference Semi Finals. But will having Lin back help?
The Heat swept the season series from the Knicks 3-0, each time defeating a different Knicks squad. The worst of those losses came in the midst of “Linsanity”, a 102-88 loss to the Heat on February 23 that saw Lin shoot 1-for-11 from the floor and commit eight turnovers under intense defense. The backcourt tandem of Chalmers and Cole gave Lin problems even brining the ball up the court. So we’ve already seen what the Heat’s defense can do to stop Lin.
Then there is the issue of he coming back early. Is it worth the risk of re-injury to bring him back? I can’t help but think of former Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard Brandon Roy, who is now retired after just five seasons due to a degenerative knee condition. While Lin’s injury has never considered as serious as Roy’s, you have to think of the Washington product whenever you hear about a young player battling a knee injury.
The Knicks need to allow their diamond in the rough to heal completely. Bring him on slowly. Maybe let him play in some summer league games. Whatever the plan of action may be, it should all be with the thought of having him ready for next season – and for that matter the next number of years. Then we can finally see if a Knicks team led by Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony can succeed with a point guard who can run the offense. Let’s face it: we all know Lin is coming back next year, since he turned MSG into a cash cow for owner James Dolan. Maybe it will finally lead to some continuity and allow the main cogs of this team to gel and come together.
The situation that has transpired in the playoffs has left Knicks fans with a bitter taste in their mouths. The lockout shortened, injury filled and forever changing lineup season didn’t help matters either. But through all the dark clouds of the 2011-2012 season, there is hope for the future and it starts with Lin. The only risk to the future is bringing him back prematurely and risking re-injury, that could have severe consequences for the Harvard graduate’s future.