Jeremy Lin and Mike D’Antoni are forever linked in basketball lore. D’Antoni ran the Knicks when Lin painted his Linsanity masterpiece — a thing that couldn’t have happened under any other coach on earth. D’Antoni loves a penetrating guard with vision — he didn’t create Steve Nash, but he created Steve Nash NBA MVP. D’Antoni’s doing the same thing in Houston right now, making a system that suits the sui generis James Harden and making the Rockets a contender — or so it seems so far.
A smart new article by Chris Baldwin in Paper City — a Texas publication — links the success and styles of D’Antoni and Lin not just in the past but in the present. Both men are perennial underdogs who are chronically underappreciated. And importantly both Lin and D’Antoni are first-rate loyalty guys, not least to each other. (Players like Lin remember the first coach who gave them the green light the way princesses remember Prince Charming in fairy tales.) It’s no accident Lin plays in Brooklyn for Kenny Atkinson — a D’Antoni assistant during Lin’s famous surge. Baldwin delivers a D’Antoni quote that explains the Lin sympatico perfectly: “I’m really proud of Lin and what he’s done. And it couldn’t happen to a better person. That’s why you coach, for moments like that, for people like him.” Baldwin asserts that “D’Antoni does not just admire Jeremy Lin’s perseverance. He channeled it for his own comeback.” A comeback that in Houston is going very well indeed.