Lin finds it’s a long way to top

Eight turnovers. Eight points on an awful 1-for-11 performance from the field against the high-flying Miami Heat, the greatest show in the NBA right now.

It’s no time to panic, though. It’s time for Jeremy Lin to go back to school. Every other team in the league will study how the Heat took the air out of New York’s sensational young point guard last night in Miami. Lin, his teammates and the coaching staff had better come up with some answers soon or this Garden party is essentially over.

But I’d be surprised if J-Lin didn’t learn from this beating, a 102-88 defeat, and evolve into a better NBA player because of it.

I’ve seen enough of Jeremy Lin to know that this is someone who is smart and athletic enough to be successful in this league. It may turn out to be tougher for him than it was to graduate from Harvard with a degree in economics, but I believe he will.

The Heat trapped and squeezed Lin last night, coming at him with overwhelming speed and taking away the pick and roll. When they’re clicking, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Co. can make an opponent look mighty small.

Lin said afterward that he couldn’t remember a game in which it was so difficult just to dribble the basketball. There isn’t another basketball team in the world better equipped to play that style, but everyone else will try. Lin and the Knicks are on notice.

Remember, this is an NBA career that is less than three weeks old, going back to Feb. 4 when Lin came off the bench against the Nets. No training camp, fewer practice opportunities due to the compressed schedule. Star players who were out of the lineup and have had to fit in once they returned.

It hasn’t made for an ideal learning environment, but fortunately for Knicks fans Jeremy Lin is smart enough to deal with it. He wouldn’t make any excuses last night, and I don’t expect any excuses from him in the future.

Unlike the Lakers earlier this month, the Heat were well aware of Lin-sanity when the spotlight fell on Miami last night. They played defense against Lin like he was one of the best point guards in the NBA. In doing so, they showed everyone just how far Lin has to improve to reach that level.

It comes down to this: Do you think the kid is up to it?

I do. He’s got the physical and mental makeup. Now, while talk about a championship and comparisons with the NBA’s elite predictably takes a rest, Lin can go back to school on becoming a very good point guard. One who makes his teammates better. One who, eventually, can lead his team to a title.  

If he gets help from his teammates, that is.

Yes, even the player whose job it is to make his teammates better needs help. That’s what good teams do. They help each other win.

The Knicks, as they’re presently constructed, may not have all the pieces to capture an NBA title, but they’re a lot further along than they were before Feb. 4. The day Lin-sanity hit the big-time.

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