- Bradford Doolittle, ESPN Staff Writer
This stuff just got real. The Jeremy Lin story moved from buzz to fairytale on Friday with his 38-point, seven-assist performance against the Los Angeles Lakers. Lin's performance in the first three games after he began playing starter-type minutes was great. Still, you might have dismissed him because of the New York Knicks' tepid quality of opposition last week. You can't quibble with Friday's game, though, not when it came at the expense of the vaunted Lakers and their pair of elite 7-foot defensive anchors.
What Lin has done is unprecedented. According to Elias, Lin's 89 points over his first three starts were the most by a player since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976, and the most period since Atlanta's John Drew scored 97 in his first three starts in 1974. You can just imagine Peter Vecsey muttering to himself courtside: "Free throws, layups, 3-pointers -- whatever he wants to do, he does. How can somebody be so good who came from nowhere?"
Of course, we have to be careful not to get too carried away. After his big week, Lin sports a .625 True Shooting Percentage using over 30 percent of the Knicks' possessions while he's on the floor. That combination of efficiency and prolificacy is unheard of. If he were to post those numbers over a full season, it would be just the 11th time a player hit those benchmarks. The other 10 seasons include four by Michael Jordan, two by LeBron James and one each from Shaquille O'Neal, Karl Malone, Kevin Durant and Larry Bird. Are we really ready to put Lin in that class?
We've seen players emerge from nowhere before, even if not to Lin's degree. Seattle's Flip Murray made waves by coming out of obscurity to average 23.9 points in the first 11 games of the 2003-04 season in place of injured Ray Allen. Ramon Sessions didn't make his NBA debut until March of his rookie season but finished the campaign by handing out 13.2 assists per night over Milwaukee's last seven games. Those players were destined for sustained usefulness in the NBA, but not stardom. As well as he's played, it's far more likely that Lin is going to turn into Murray than Bird.
However, even if Lin's production does taper off some, his impact on the offense could be enough to keep the Knicks rolling. Our projections on Lin give us a glimpse into what that might look like.