Starting 5: Lin’s greatest challenges ahead, Kevin Martin wakes up & is Tony Parker an MVP candidate?

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Every morning, we’ll give you five things from the night before in the NBA to start your day.

1:  Lin keeps on rolling with another career high

Jeremy LinThis time, it’s in the assist column.  Lin dropped 13 dimes to continue the insert-name-pun-here roll he’s been on… a roll so amazing he’s even captured President Obama’s attention.  His jersey was the league’s top seller last week on NBA.com.  You can’t walk around New York without hearing about Lin somehow, in some way.  Meanwhile, the Knicks have whipped off 7 straight wins to climb back to the .500 mark.  The real test, though, is coming up.  

After Friday night’s game against New Orleans, the Knicks face a stretch where they face Dallas, New Jersey (and Deron Williams), Atlana, and Miami.  If Lin outplays Deron Williams, head for your underground bunkers, because the resulting mania will surely cause the world to collapse upon itself.  And I know you’re sitting there saying “well, there’s no way THAT happens”… what were the odds of ANY of this happening, really?  I would expect Lin to come back to earth a little in this stretch, but you just never know.  We could find out a lot about the kid before the All Star break.

2:  Welcome back, Kevin Martin

Kevin Martin had been playing some of the worst basketball of his life… until last night.  After averaging a tick over 7 points per game over his last six games (and going scoreless on Tuesday), Kevin Martin exploded for 32 in a big win over Oklahoma City.  And you can thank another Kevin, Rockets coach Kevin McHale, for helping him get back on track. 

“We’ve got to do a better job of trying to get you going, but you’ve got to do a good job of getting yourself going, too,” McHale said he told Martin. “I did it for a lot of years and it’s incumbent on you to go out there and get yourself going.”

Houston has been fairly mediocre lately, which is easy to understand when your best scorer is playing as poorly as Kevin Martin was.  If McHale’s advice takes hold, though, and Martin uses his energy to get himself better shots, then the Rockets may just return to being that “dangerous” team no one wants to face in the playoffs.

3:  HIGHLIGHTS!!!

CP3 to Blake… with the lob, of course


       

Alonzo Gee with the HUGE finish on the break

Steve Nash with the circus lay up

4:  Line of the night:  Tony Parker – 34 points, 14 assists, 3 rebounds

Debate I had with fellow editor Jeff Garcia:  When does Tony Parker enter the MVP conversation?  I know at first blush, you’ll say it’s crazy.  But he’s 12th in the league in scoring and 8th in assists… he’s led the Spurs to a 21-9 record… and they’ve now won 9 games in a row.

I know full well that the MVP race has been pre-ordained to Kevin Durant/LeBron James.  And obviously they are more talented, bigger name guys.  But if Tony Parker continues doing what he’s doing, he’s going to start working his way into that conversation.

5:  You can quote me on that

“We were losing games, and we could have started pointing fingers, and we could have said it was the coach’s fault — which, by the way, it wasn’t — and we could have split up.  But everyone came together . . . and guys started buying in more and more, and it’s unbelievable right now. The camaraderie on this team is just ridiculous.

“It’s just such a joy to be around them every day. You show up to the practice facility, and it’s all smiles across the board. That’s the beauty of team sports, and that’s the beauty of basketball.”
    - Jeremy Lin, after the Knicks 7th straight win 

“The last couple of weeks, he’s been playing at a big-time leve.  He’s one of my favorite players. He’s so slithery and so quick, and now he’s gotten a little strength. He makes it tough to get into him and guard him in these situations. Now he’s developed a jump shot, so you have to honor that.”
     – Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, on Tony Parker

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