Growing pains; Wolves lose 100-98

New York Knicks' Jeremy Lin, Front, Races

Jeremy Lin is good, not unbelievable

No, I do no want to add an “L” to a word’s prefix that begins with “in” for dramatic effect. No, I don’t want to fall into the swirling affection that has bloomed for the NBA’s new Golden Child.

I’m all a little over it.

I’m not jealous; Ricky Rubio is still the league’s best point guard prospect, hands down, end of discussion. I’m indifferent over the entire phenomenon that is “Linsanity.” It’s just all a little overblown.

Jeremy Lin is a talent. Speaking strictly of his basketball skills, — because that’s the only thing that matters, right? — his ball-handling is extraordinary. His jump shot could use a little fine-tuning — He hits more contested shots than wide open ones. Next to Dwyane Wade, he’s probably second-best at utilizing the reverse layup not just for show but as a means to¬†achieve¬†the best shot possible at making his layup that he worked so hard for.

Behind Lin, not because of him, the Knicks are prowling their way on an impressive little winning streak; they’re playing beautiful team ball with all of their pieces making contributions. You see Lin running everything and making big drives. You see Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert step up the scoring punch. You see Tyson Chandler filling his own in the paint and still chip in offensively. You even see Steve Novak get into a groove; given playing time, he could be the NBA’s best three-point shooter.

The Knicks are a classic example of the clogging superstars. With two on your team, who demand the ball and all the shots, it stops the flow of the offense, which flexes the defense because you’re likely playing a man down; and that halts any chance momentum has to build. Right now, playing without those two guys, all phases of the game are affected positively and they’re winning, in terms of the Knicks.

As for the Wolves, they lost this game on their own. They stiffened their defense in the second half, just enough to sustain a minimal lead the entire game. Is it their fault for not pushing that lead at any point? Perhaps. They did have the opportunity. But a team only running through their best two players, they ended up “dropping the ball” in the final seconds.

There are team differences between the Knicks and Wolves and they’re big enough to justify five game winning streaks or three game losing streaks. Those “differences” — Turnovers, poor shot selection, limited defensive effort — are revealing glaring team weaknesses that are hindering any stretch of growth. The Knicks, on the other hand, well, you get it.

There will be growing pains, there will be insurmountable mistakes. Ask any OKC Thunder fan and they’ll tell you that the playoffs don’t just come overnight. This one will hurt for a while but there’s a lot to learn if they’re willing to study.

Next up the Wolves travel to Orlando to play Dwight Howard and the Magic. Game is Monday night.