Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Business as Usual

Jeremy Lin is a dichotomy. As long as his usage is high, he  gets his team to play within a flow. He sacrifices his own stats in order to get his teammates opportunities to get into their shooting rhythm or adapt to playing in a certain way that takes advantage of mismatches. However, at the same time, team owners and coaches feel that whenever they have Jeremy Lin in a prominent high-usage role, the team is, for better or for worse, a Jeremy Lin team.

And, as we’ve seen in the past few years, coaches and management love what Jeremy brings in terms of fans and sponsorship, but they are never willing to take the next step to allow their team to become a Jeremy Lin team because it is inescapable that the media will spin its attention in a manner that he completely dominates the story line.

The NBA is a carefully crafted business entity that has survived drug and sex scandals, racial bias and a long laundry list of issues that has stymied its popularity in the past. When black players became too prominent, white audiences stopped coming to the games until Larry Bird’s emergence. When white players started to gain their court respectability back, blacks called Larry Bird the Great White Hype. Race has always been an issue it seemed until the emergence of Michael Jordan.bird

Michael Jordan’s game and personality transcended race. Black people loved him. White people loved him. People of every color and class loved him. Michael Jordan was also loved by sponsors and endorsers who made billions off of Michael Jordan’s brand and personality. Michael Jordan was also a dichotomy. Not only was he the single best athletic player on the court, he exemplified the heart of a champion as he knew when to put the team on his back and when to empower his teammates to rise above their perceived potential.

As father time came knocking, people in the business knew that the amount of time that they can milk Jordan’s brand has reached its apex. NBA was looking for a successor, someone like Jordan who was not only skilled on the court but also a savvy spokesperson. First it was Penny Hardaway then it was Grant Hill. But, each suffered potential career ending injuries that hurt both their performance on court and their brand. The NBA continues their search. We can throw in a bunch of other names from Vince Carter to a variety of players who have won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

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There were players that had close to Jordan’s physical abilities. But, there were none with his commercial ability and likability that transcended class and race like Jordan’s did. There will never be a player like Michael Jordan. But, the NBA found the next best thing in Kobe Bryant. And, they found a slew of other stars. But, none shared the same physical mold as Jordan’s and plays the same position, has the same coach and similar trash talking egotistical cockiness that could attract and influence a whole new generation of impressionable wannabe ball players like Kobe could.

jordanThe NBA succeeded. Anecdotally, Kobe was since and still is the most recognizable “brand” in the whole basketball world. But, unlike both Michael Jordan and Jeremy Lin, Kobe is not a dichotomy. He does not possess Jordan’s ability to both take the team on his back and facilitate to his teammates if not for the fact that he had a coach who was able to do that for him for most of his career. But, the NBA does not care. They saw a formula for star creation which is unfathomable physical ability and supreme self-confidence and, hence, this formula is now written in stone.

Dare I compare both Jeremy Lin and Kobe Bryant to Michael Jordan. Yes, I believe they are both successors to his Airness/Heirness. Kobe Bryant took over Jordan’s form. But, Jeremy Lin took over Jordan’s heart and essence. It’s Jordan’s do-not-quit attitude that Lin took over that motivated him and driven him to survive and succeed in every level of competition so far.

Jeremy credits his supposed creator for Linsanity for all those little things had to happen for it to have occurred. But, why Linsanity really occurred is because he has a heart of a champion that never quit in face of adversity and never compromised on quality or his style of play even when it’s easy or convenient to do so.

Jeremy didn’t adopt the Michael Jordan tough guy act in order to ingratiate to NBA stalwarts. He didn’t pad his stats in order to appease demanding “know it all” NBA fans and statisticians. He strives hard to do what Jordan did best which is to get his team into the flow of the game, get players to play the way that not only maximized their personal abilities but also contributed most efficiently to team wins.

So, what is the difference between the Linsanity games versus post Linsanity games? For one, Lin was in charge of the ball during Linsanity, so he had the opportunity to get things going his way. Second, the Knicks bench players, though lacking in physical talent, possessed high basketball IQ. Lin did not have to coax his teammates to playing defense and spread the floor for spacing. Nor did he have to teach his teammates how to take advantage of mismatches or how to rotate on defense. The Knicks players knew their roles and knew how to pierce their opponents’ weaknesses with Lin at the tip of their spears.

With the return of Melodrama, the team reverted back to conventional NBA approved isolation offense and lackadaisical defense. With Lin as the starting point guard, the Knicks were still better than before Linsanity, but they are now a shell of their former selves.

melodramaThe proverbial valley hit during a post Linsanity game when Miami handed the Knicks and Jeremy a butt spanking. NBA pundits said Jeremy’s been scouted and exposed. And, they were right. Lin’s weaknesses has been exposed on that night and his weaknesses will be featured for many nights to come mostly by his home team (coach and announcers etc.)

With this, Jeremy’s Linsanity season ended with knee injury where he sat out post season. After Melodrama returned, pundits started preaching about Lin’s high turnover rate.  And, when the Knicks were roundly eliminated, they blamed it on Lin’s softness and lack of dedication to play through injury.

And, for the next two and a half seasons, being exposed is what happened to Jeremy Lin. The media in the NBA and that of his own team’s have been spinning the same message by touting no-name point guards to be brought to spotlight from obscurity and comparing them to Jeremy then have them take his position and minutes and oblige this by stating these players “reminds me of myself (head coach)” and they are “tough” and are “hardnosed defenders” while implicitly expressing that Jeremy are none of these things as reason for his demotion.

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The effect this has on the NBA it will ensure that known commodities such as a Kobe Bryant or even a James Harden are to continue in the tradition of his Heirness of cocky superstars and hoping that their immeasurable popularity will lead to continued profitability. Not in the mold of a Bryant or a Harden, Jeremy’s too much of a business risk. He has too many intangibles in terms how unmalleable his personality is both on and off court (obviously, if you don’t know by now, Lin does not play by the rules, and this makes him a business risk.)

With the demise of Kobe’s relevance with the Lakers due to rotator cuff injury, could we expect Jeremy to resume a larger role within the Laker organization currently on the floor and with their future plans? I say no. I doubt the Buss kids have the guts to let the Lakers become a Jeremy Lin team. I doubt the NBA has the testicles to let Jeremy’s brand flourish in the world of cookie cutter manufactured super stars.

Jeremy simply represents something that most business people abhor, and that’s risk. But, know that great risk comes with great rewards. And, for future generations, what you are doing, just like what those climate change deniers are doing, will be a black eye on your own legacy, sustainability and profitability.

So, now you know why teams demote Lin as the NBA tries to expose Lin.  This now puts into context of the likes of Joey Crawford and Violet Palmer among others: why they exist and do what they do.

The DeAndre Jordan tackle but no call game

The Eric Bledsoe shove but not call game

The Ariza undercutting but gets the call game

The Phoenix gets all the illegal block foul call game

The Golden State gets all the illegal block foul call game

credit goes to those I borrowed the youtube videos from. jlinnation and mercurygalaxii

  • John Cerrasso

    A really interesting and possible theory. Should spark some real debate. Please put this on a national news/blog site: BleacherReport, Fansided, etc (not that I have much respect for those outlets but it’s a start).

    • http://etane.net/ etane

      honestly i am not familiar with those sites… but thanks!

  • http://etane.net/ etane

    Additional thoughts:

    nba wants lin to be tough and mean like bev and price. these people
    get to start over lin because it is a message the nba wants to send to
    jeremy is that the only way we will let you be used regularly is if you
    fit our cookie cutter mold of who we think nba players ought to look and
    act.

    i am sure nba did a lot of focus groups and business
    analysis regarding what works and doesn’t. and, this is what they’ve
    come up with. it’s a formula that’s worked very well during the last
    20-30 years and they are probably not willing to deviate too far from
    it.

    sure, certain others players don’t fit the mold either. but,
    lin’s background and race makes him fat and away the one that busts the
    mold the most. so, only way, i think, for lin to be used fairly is if:

    1) lin’s brand can proven to co-exist with traditional nba players’ brands such as melo/harden/kobe
    2) there’s enough of a niche target segment that nba will find profitable to cater to

  • Kpkafle

    I’m impressed, it’s really well written. To me, the reason why Linsanity will not happen with the Lakers is because Byron and the front office just don’t believe he is that good. He also needs his team mates to work with him and these Lakers don’t care about winning and sacrificing for the team. Byron’s various starting line ups and substitution patterns shows no pattern so why should they play hard when he is not rewarding the players that hustle and play hard.

    • http://etane.net/ etane

      welcome!

      “To me, the reason why Linsanity will not happen with the Lakers is
      because Byron and the front office just don’t believe he is that good.”

      to me, it seems the lakers are afraid that he’s really that good. i know that sounds insane but the actions speak for themselves. both everything kobe and scott has been doing is damaging lin both on and off court.

      “He also needs his team mates to work with him and these Lakers don’t care about winning and sacrificing for the team.”

      this is on coach. no direction. no discipline. but, only blame lin for not being “consistent” about getting the offense going. what does that even mean? what about on defense? lakers score enough points to win but give up more points than they score. defense is the problem!

  • Etymology

    Great article and provable theory Etane.

    What’s your current prediction of what might happen to Jlin before trade deadline or end of this season?

  • Simon Lee

    Nice article Etane and I have had very similar sentiments about the mass media as well. Thanks for articulating.

  • Riks Tru

    haters gonna hate hate hate. we argue to change. but must resist when we hit the wall. That’s what we have to do with illogic. And yes, Lin’s defense makes him special! He is definitely above average. He blocks a lot shots and gets a lot of steals. there are just too many talented guards, Time will tell the story.