Will Life After 'Lin' Change NBA Recruiting?

The New York Knicks lost to New Jersey Monday night, but sudden NBA sensation Jeremy Lin had another strong game with 21 points. Lin has been racking up big numbers since exploding on the scene a few weeks ago. The Knicks have won all but two games during that stretch. Did scouts miss a diamond in the rough, did Lin take full advantage of a unique situation — or was it both? And will his performance hasten the emergence of other "Jeremy Lin"s in the league?

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The National Basketball Association has entered its third week of Linsanity, and sudden star Jeremy Lin shows no signs of slowing down. His New York Knicks lost last night for only the second time since Lin took over as the team's starting point guard. And despite the loss he had another great game; 21 points, nine assists, seven rebounds.

NPR's Tom Goldman explores whether Lin's story, from bench player to global sensation, will lead to the discovery of more NBA diamonds in the rough.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: There's a popular notion that a bunch of talent evaluators, from college to the pros, blew it when it came to Jeremy Lin. He wasn't offered any basketball scholarships to major universities. He wasn't drafted by any NBA teams.

David Thorpe trains college and pro players. Knowing talent, he says, is his job. And he's as critical as anyone about the way basketball players often are, in his words, put into commodities boxes, profiled early and not given the opportunity to flourish. But after two and a half weeks of Linsanity, Thorpe says even the most open-minded talent scouts might have whiffed on Jeremy Lin.

DAVID THORPE: No one could've seen it because he wasn't this player when he's played before. And I think that's a point that is really getting lost right now.

GOLDMAN: So what led this player come out in Jeremy Lin?

THORPE: Desperation.

GOLDMAN: A perfect storm of desperate factors, says Thorpe. The Knicks were bad team missing two megastars, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. None of the point guards was producing. Lin was close to being cut and coach Mike D'Antoni decided to give him a last, long look. Lin responded with a breakout game. After just one more game, D'Antoni said he would ride Lin like Secretariat.

Thorpe says it's incredibly rare for an undrafted player, even drafted players, to have their coach say that kind of thing so soon.

THORPE: That is an enormous confidence boost and it gives permission for Jeremy Lin to miss shots, to turn the ball over - which he's done both a lot - and not sulk, not panic but just stay the course, continue to stay confident, play his game and we've seen what's happened because of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: And can I say it? It's Lin-demonium here at Madison Square Garden as the Knicks win, 104-97. Just an amazing story.

GOLDMAN: Lin passed another test Sunday, leading New York to victory over the defending NBA champion, Dallas Mavericks, heard on ESPN radio. And as Lin's great games start to pile up, you might wonder - is the NBA full of Jeremy Lins waiting to blossom?

JEFF VAN GUNDY: No, not at all.

GOLDMAN: Former Knicks coach and current ESPN NBA analyst, Jeff Van Gundy, thinks everyone in the NBA can play to some extent and, given an opportunity, can play well on occasion.

GUNDY: But I think there are very few players who go from not playing to starting and being the most important player on that team - I think that would be very, very rare, indeed.

GOLDMAN: Don't tell that to all the players buzzing about Jeremy Lin. Guys like 23-year-old Marqus Blakely, a forward in the D League, the NBA's minor league, where Lin spent time.

MARQUS BLAKELY: Everything that he says - I've kind of been through that, too. Kind of doubting yourself, if you're supposed to be here or if you're an NBA caliber player. It kind of gives players hope, you know.

GOLDMAN: It's hard to say if players like Blakely will benefit from Lin-sanity and get more opportunity. NBA teams are tight-lipped about their scouting practices.

David Thorpe, who runs the Pro Training Center in Florida, says the smart teams are talking to their scouts, challenging their coaching staffs, looking at their players under contract in the D League and asking, do we have Jeremy Lin sitting and waiting on our bench right now?

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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