Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Lin Has a Coach Who Brings Best out of His Guards

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Lin Has a Coach Who Brings Best out of His Guards

Article excerpt

Steve Nash took his game to the next level when Mike D'Antoni was his coach in Phoenix, and now D'Antoni is having the same effect with Jeremy Lin in New York.

In 2003, Steve Nash was a very good point guard on a very good team. He was an All-Star. He made his Dallas teammates better. No one viewed him as a transcendent player.

In 2003, Mike D'Antoni was a largely unknown coach whose only success had come in Italy. He inherited a broken Phoenix Suns team and guided it to a 21-40 record.

By 2005, Nash was the N.B.A.'s most valuable player and D'Antoni the coach of the year.

What happened in between was that Nash met D'Antoni, in the basketball equivalent of a torrid love story. Sparks flew. Scoreboards short-circuited. Fans swooned. The chemistry was palpable.

D'Antoni needed a creative guard with uncanny court vision to power his wide-open offense. Nash needed a system that maximized those gifts. The Suns became the darlings of the league and a power in the Western Conference.

It happens this way sometimes in the N.B.A., the perfect alignment of talent and philosophy, skills and style.

It may be happening again in New York, although under much different circumstances.

Jeremy Lin is not Steve Nash, although his poking, prodding, hunt- and-peck approach to finding open lanes evokes Nash's style. Lin does not have Nash's pedigree, or his 3-point shot. But he does have D'Antoni, whom he called "an absolute offensive genius" last week.

The results are swoon-worthy.

In five games before Tuesday, four as a starter, the formerly unknown Lin averaged 26.8 points and 8 assists with a .515 field- goal percentage. He has revived a flagging Knicks team, brought the thrill back to their home games and become an international sensation.

Beyond all that, Lin has restored a happy rhythm to a once- chaotic Knicks offense. The ball is moving, the lanes are open, the role players are thriving. Lin has made the Knicks enjoyable again and provided vindication for D'Antoni's offensive vision.

"Obviously satisfying," D'Antoni said. "It's like, 'Oh, God, thank goodness.' We didn't change anything up from the other years to this year. We kind of knew why it wasn't going. We were trying to figure out different ways to get it jump-started, but we couldn't do it."

The Knicks began this season without a reliable point guard, having traded Raymond Felton last February and waived Chauncey Billups in December. Every replacement failed: Toney Douglas, Iman Shumpert, Mike Bibby, Carmelo Anthony (as point forward).

Without a skilled playmaker, and with Anthony dominating the ball, D'Antoni's fluid, frenetic offense turned to sludge. Lin has changed all that, with cagey work in the pick-and-roll, quick decisions, crisp passes and a jump shot that is better than expected. …

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