Enjoying the Jeremy Lin ride, which may get bumpy

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We need to be honest — the three defenses that Jeremy Lin has carved up as the starting point guard for the Knicks are three terrible defenses. All three are in the bottom 10 in the league in defensive efficiency, and the best one (Utah) has slow bigs who are awful against quick guards — the pick-and-roll ball handler has burned them all season (29th in the league).

But so what?

You have to beat the team in front of you and Lin has done just that. He exploited his opponents’ weaknesses — that is how you win games in the NBA. The fact is Lin has gotten the Knicks three victories in a season where the Knicks drop these kinds of games by playing without passion.

Lin has passion, and that has made him fun to watch. Linsanity has ignited New York.

If you love the game, it’s hard not to have a smile on your face when you watch him play.

He is a cold beer on a hot day to Knicks fans — it doesn’t matter that he’s not a finely brewed, artisanal craft beer; he’s what the Knicks needed right now. He’s the first point guard they have that fits the Mike D’Antoni system. He plays smart and aggressively off the strong high pick that Tyson Chandler sets — Lin has a little Chris Paul-like hesitation off the pick then changes speeds as he gets to the elbow or into the lane. He reads the play incredibly well, and roll guys like Chandler are benefiting. Spot up guys are getting the ball with space and in rhythm.

In basketball circles, people keep expecting teams to figure Lin out soon. Check out this note from Michael Lee of the Washington Post talking about Wizards coach Randy Wittman.

After Lin finished with 23 points and a career-high 10 assists, Wizards Coach Randy Wittman had to absorb an equally painful text message from his son, Ryan, who played against Lin for four years in the Ivy League at Cornell.

“He told me that they did a much better job guarding him than we did tonight,” Wittman said with an uncomfortable chuckle. “Makes Dad feel good.”

Lin has been entertaining, but the book on him is growing and he is going to have to grow himself to keep this going. Pretty soon teams are going to go under those picks and give him an outside shot — he is shooting 9 percent from three this season and is not steady outside 16 feat. Lin doesn’t finish well with his left hand, smart teams will force him that way (although how long have we said Lamar Odom and Corey Maggette are one handed and they stuck).

It’s about adjustments and improvements. You see this in baseball — a young pitcher comes up from the minors midseason and has a handful of great games, until hitters have seen him a few times and they adjust and start smacking him around. Then it’s on the pitcher to adjust again.

Soon that will be on Lin. Defenses will adjust. What’s more, he’s going to have to adjust with the team on the floor when Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony return and start taking up possessions and shots.

Friday night against the Lakers is going to be fun — Derek Fisher isn’t going to stop him (or anyone else), but under Mike Brown the Lakers big men have been very aggressive showing out on pick-and-roll ball handlers. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are long and athletic (Gasol is a particularly good big in that situation) so this will be by far Lin’s biggest test.

That’s not to say that the ride is over (after Los Angeles it’s Minnesota then three more teams under .500), just that the road is about to get a lot bumpier.

Fasten your seatbelts Knicks fans, it’s going to be a bumpy night. And those can be the best rides of all.

Sixers’ Robert Covington to miss at least one game after crashing into stands

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NBA fans love hustle from their players, but sometimes things go awry.

That’s what happened on Saturday night after Philadelphia 76ers forward Robert Covington dove into the stands to try to save a loose ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The play came in the fourth quarter with under two minutes left and the Sixers down by just one point. Covington leapt into the far sideline just near the Cavaliers bench. He appeared to turn his ankle and land awkwardly on his back. The Cleveland floor has a small lip after the first row of seats that may have played a part in the injury.

Cleveland would go on to score on the play, and Covington had to be helped off the floor. The Cavaliers went on to win, 105-98.

Meanwhile, the 76ers will play Sunday in New Orleans against the Pelicans. According to NBC Sports Philadelphia, Covington will miss the game with a lower back contusion.

Via NBCSN Philadelphia:

X-rays and a CT scan came back negative. Covington is with the team in New Orleans and is doubtful for Tuesday’s game in Minnesota.

Covington tumbled out of bounds and over courtside seats while he tried to save a possession during a Sixers comeback attempt. There is an approximate four-to-five inch drop between the court and the area where Covington landed. Many of his teammates were unaware of Covington’s injury at first because it was out of their vision.

“It’s scary to see your teammate like that,” guard JJ Redick said. “They said he fell on his back. I wanted to make sure he’s walking and not in too much pain. But I just wish the best for him and hope he’s OK.”

Back injuries can be a complete hassle to recover from, especially when you’re deep in the middle of the season. Let’s hope the Sixers get Covington back soon.

Giannis Antetokounmpo dunked all over Rudy Gobert (VIDEO)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks a lot. The Milwaukee Bucks forward is big, strong, and aggressive when it comes to attacking the rim.

But he doesn’t typically dunk this hard or this emphatically over perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidates like Rudy Gobert.

That’s what made this one special.

As time was winding down in Milwaukee’s eventual 117-100 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night, Antetokounmpo put the exclamation point at the end of the sentence for the Bucks.

Gobert took the brunt of it. Via Twitter:

Goodness.

Gordon Hayward on playing this season: “It’s definitely in the back of my mind”

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Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has been going through some grueling physical therapy to aid his recovery from a horrible leg injury he suffered during his first game with the team back in October. Hayward wound up breaking his ankle, likely putting him out for the season.

Meanwhile, whether Hayward plays or not during the 2017-18 campaign is still up for debate. Hayward is making progress in his recovery — he recently was able to take his walking boot off and go for a smaller ankle brace.

For his part, Hayward has said that he is still thinking about the possibility of returning this season to the Celtics, who have earned themselves the top spot in the Eastern Conference in his absence.

Speaking to Adam Himmelsbach over at the Boston Globe, Hayward detailed not only his recovery routine but his thinking when it came to planning his return.

Via The Boston Globe:

“It’s definitely in the back of my mind,” Hayward said. “I’m definitely pushing to get back as fast as I can, while making sure that I still have a lot of good years of basketball in me. And coming back early and hurting something else is not part of that plan. So I’m making sure that if I come back, I’m 1,000 percent confident in myself and my leg. I hope more than anything I can play this season. That would be awesome. But that’s not something I’m stressing about. I’m stressing about what I can do today to help myself get better.”

That’s smart thinking on Hayward’s part. Too often it seems like guys are jonesing to come back, and when they do it’s cause for concern that they’re damaging their long-term playing health.

Hayward is making some real progress — the Globe story details him doing tasks like picking up marbles with his toes and shooting baskets from a chair as part of his PT — but whether he’ll be ready this season is doubtful.

It doesn’t sound like Hayward wants to rush things, but you never know. His agent did say that his return this year is unlikely, but another report has said that his earliest return would be March. Just in time to make a run for an Eastern Conference Finals showdown against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers?

We’ll have to wait and see.

EDIT: Shortly after this story and the Boston Globe one was published on Sunday morning, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said the team isn’t planning for Hayward to come back. The plot thickens!

Kobe Bryant’s advice to Lonzo Ball, young Lakers: “push, push, push, get better now”

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Kobe Bryant was never a patient man.

Veteran Lakers of that era tell stories of Kobe entering Lakers practices at age 18 and wanting to take on the older players in games of one-on-one after practice, and trying to dominate them. He wanted to establish his credentials early and never backed off. He pushed himself, his teammates, everyone around him, and that was part of his success.

So it shouldn’t be a shock that in an interview on the Lakers’ cable channel in Los Angeles, Spectrum SportsNet, Kobe’s advice to Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and the rest of the young Lakers was to push themselves. Hard. (Hat tip Bleacher Report.)

“We never thought, ‘OK, we’re gonna win four years from now.’ We really thought, ‘This is our year. We’re gonna get this done. We’re gonna push, push, push, push, push, get better now.’ And in the process of having that kind of impatience, you develop. If you’re just patiently going about it, you’ll never get there. For players, it’s a kind of patient impatience.”

Kobe entered the league in a very different situation, an NBA team that had Shaquille O’Neal at his peak in the post, quality veteran role players around him, a team that was nearly ready to contend. Still, it took them four years — and a lot of pushing and maturing from Kobe — to win a title.

However, Kobe would never look at it that way. He would want to push hard and push through. And that’s what he’s telling the young Lakers now.

The Lakers are taking little steps forward — Brandon Ingram’s confidence and game are turning a corner and he is impressing of late, Lonzo Ball’s decision making is getting better (the game seems to be slowing down for him a little), and Kyle Kuzma has been one of the league’s best rookies this season. But there is a long way to go. Kobe knows that, and is telling them to not let up. Which is what you’d expect him to say and what fans want.

But those fans need to be patient, too. This is a process in Los Angeles, and a long one.