Backs against the wall, 13-game postseason losing streak in hand, the New York Knicks kept their memorable 2011-12 season alive with an 89-87 win on Sunday afternoon. In downing the Miami Heat, the Knicks staved off a sweep in the opening-round series, but in the meantime lost starting point guard Baron Davis in the process to a disturbing knee injury that could derail his career. Mike Bibby, as it stands, is the only active point guard on the team's roster now that Davis and rookie Iman Shumpert have gone down to knee injuries, unless second-year guard Jeremy Lin can return early from knee surgery he underwent in early April. The New York Daily News reported on Sunday night that this is a possibility.
And for a team that has endured one of the more memorable (good and bad) 70-game runs in NBA history, its final soap opera might prove to be its most lasting, and perhaps its most damaging. Is it worth bringing Lin back for one game, after he tore his meniscus last March? Is it worth threatening the rehabilitation of a player the team will be banking on for hopeful years to come as someone to distribute the ball and balance the floor, for a game against one of the hottest teams in the league, on its home floor?
We ask this still not knowing if Lin will play. The initial diagnosis for Lin placed his return potentially in the second round of the playoffs, and though at the time of Lin's injury the Knicks were on a winning run of sorts, overall the squad was reeling — a game under .500, with a playoff appearance in doubt. The idea that the Knicks could make it to the second round was borderline laughable at the time, so Lin's return was never really considered.
Here's the problem. The idea behind a second-round appearance is still laughable. The Knicks have to win three games in a row against Miami, with two played in Florida, in a season that has seen the team lose to the Heat six out of seven times. And though I'm not going to pretend to know more than the New York training staff that has been working endlessly with Lin to nurse him back to health, the idea of pushing this guy out there for even spot duty in Wednesday's Game 5 sounds like something the team shouldn't risk.
Here is how things stand as of now, from the New York Daily News:
It's unclear if Lin would start or back up Bibby. It's not even clear if he will return, but interim coach Mike Woodson didn't rule it out.
"I mean, I really can't answer that," Woodson said. "We'll get back to the gym tomorrow and talk to doctors and see where everybody, where they are physically. And we'll make some decisions before we get on the plane to head to Miami."
Lin has not played since March 24, and only recently began practicing with the team after undergoing surgery on the meniscus in his left knee in early April.
The meniscus, if recent NBA history is any indication, is not as severe a tear as is the case with an ACL or MCL, but the effects of the injury aren't as easily repairable. Meniscus tears are the primary reason for most eventual microfracture surgery, and it was a meniscus tear (a more severe one, we submit) that Gilbert Arenas attempted to hurry back from in 2007 that resulted in his series of surgeries that basically left him floor bound and a shadow of the All-Star he used to be.
Again, we harbor absolutely none of the medical know-how of the Knicks' staff, but we do know quite a bit about pro basketball. And even if Mike Bibby (in what could be his last pro game) has to play over 40 minutes after two days rest, this is the hand New York has been dealt. And it needn't rush Lin back to play a Heat team that hounded Lin in its lone meeting with him on Feb. 23 — forcing Jeremy into a 1-for-11 shooting night with eight turnovers in perhaps his worst game of the season.
We're possibly tilting at windmills, here. Lin might not play, with Game 5 two days away, and he could just show up for spot duty — a couple of minutes in the first half, subbing for Bibby, and a few in the second half. The odds of him playing for a short amount of time on Wednesday with no negative ramifications are way, way in Lin's favor.
Is it worth that off chance, though? Especially with how well Miami has played against New York this season? I'm not entirely sure, but you can probably guess as to what direction I'm leaning in.
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