For Bernard King, Scars From Knee Surgery Fade, but Pain Remains

Anyone with a heart had to wince when Baron Davis’s right knee was shredded last Sunday at Madison Square Garden in Game 4 of the ’ playoff series against the Miami Heat. Having once been exactly where Davis was, collapsed in a terrified heap, Bernard King had an even more visceral response.

“I do feel it when I see someone like Baron or any player goes down with a severe knee injury,” King said. “I understand their pain.”

It has been a brief playoff season of agony in the Knicks’ camp and elsewhere — most notably in Chicago, where Derrick Rose sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament — and no one can speak to the emotions and repercussions better than King. A former Knick scoring forward in the pure Carmelo Anthony mold but with a game face that was the utter antithesis of mellow, King is regarded as the N.B.A.’s patriarch of hope and recovery.

In the late 1980s and early ’90s, a time practically prehistoric in terms of surgical reinvention, King was hailed as the first player to regain a fair measure of dominance after major ligament damage. Just to step back on the court, it took almost two years of rehabilitation, shrouded in meticulous secrecy that few of us understood, but eventually came to applaud.

, in Kansas City, he was told by several doctors that his chances of returning as an above-average player, if at all, were slim. He retreated into solitary space, created his own timetable and hung a sign in the North Jersey gym where he trained that read “I shall not be denied.” He literally patted himself on the back after each and every workout.

“Someone had to scale Everest for the first time and I thought, ‘Why not me?’ ” King, who returned to the Knicks this season as an analyst on the MSG Network, said in a telephone interview. “But as I look back on it now — and what I would say to the guys dealing with this now — is that we, as athletes, sometimes think we can control our environment, speed up the process. But what you feel in therapy and working out is quite different than what you experience in a playoff basketball game.”

Medical advances aside, this sounded like worthy instruction for the rookie Iman Shumpert, who tore his left A.C.L. and lateral meniscus in Miami’s Game 1 blowout and was said to be out for what sounded like a hopeful six to eight months. As well for , who had the less-invasive arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair a slight meniscus tear and on Tuesday was finally declared out for the remainder of the series should the Knicks survive Game 5 Wednesday night in Miami.

The notion that Lin, who hasn’t played since March 24, was going to test-drive his knee in the crucible of the playoffs was far-fetched to the point of negligent. Lin will be a restricted free agent in less than two months and one who may never have more leverage.

Nor was it in Coach Mike Woodson’s interest to have doctors allow Lin to resume and risk further injury when the odds are prohibitively against the Knicks moving on. No matter how much Woodson said Tuesday that he was thinking only about Game 5 — while denying a report that he has begun negotiations with the team for next season — the long view is presumably best for him, too.

“Lin and Shumpert could be helping the Knicks win for the next 10 years,” King said, mindful of how unlucky he was when he was hurt at the tail end of a season already deep in twilight. He played six games for the Knicks in the spring of 1987 but never did step on the floor as a teammate of Patrick Ewing’s. In his second season, Ewing was hurt when King returned and King was let go by the incoming coach, Rick Pitino, who didn’t think King’s knee would endure the stress of his up-tempo style.

“A mistake,” said Darrell Walker, another former Knick from that time, who was added to the coaching staff in March when Woodson replaced Mike D’Antoni.

Walker vividly recalled running back on defense that awful night in Kansas City, and watching King rise to block a shot by Reggie Theus. He came down, clutching the lower part of his right leg.

“Thought it was his ankle,” Walker said. “It was so sad because at the time he was hurt he was the most devastating scorer I’d ever seen and I also played with Michael Jordan, Alex English and Isiah Thomas. His jump shot release was just lightning.”

Walker was a rookie in the playoff series that was arguably the pinnacle of King’s career, a gem with Detroit in 1984 in which King averaged 42.6 points, only to have Thomas erupt for an unfathomable 16 points in 94 seconds and wind up with the ball in the dying seconds of a tied and decisive Game 5.

Walker stole it, King completed a 44-point night in overtime while playing with dislocated fingers and the flu and the Knicks went on to lose a seven-game series to Larry Bird and the Celtics. Sadly for King, there would never again be such magical playoff nights but there would be an all-star game return as a Washington Bullet in 1990-91 and a sweet 49-point explosion at the Garden against the Knicks that made him feel as if he had reached the Everest peak after a six-year climb.

The moral of King’s story? Control your own destiny. There will always be more games. “I would caution any player from coming back too soon,” he said.

Athletes Gone Wild: Stoudemire Loses His Head and Knicks Lose Stoudemire

When athletes fight inanimate objects, the inanimate objects inevitably win. Amar’e Stoudemire is merely the latest star to be defeated by the true champion of professional sports: arena hardware.

when he punched the case outside the American Airlines Arena tunnel exit after the ’ 104-94 loss to the Heat in an N.B.A. playoff game Monday night. Paramedics had to treat Stoudemire in the locker room; he left the arena with his hand bandaged and his arm in a sling.

The decision to punch a solid aluminum object inside a glass-and-metal case may be irrational, but the athlete who lashes out and punches something inanimate and injurious is rarely thinking rationally.

“Their emotions hijack them,” said Charles Maher, a psychologist for the Cleveland Indians and professor emeritus at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.

Stoudemire joins a long list of players who lost bouts with walls, doors, water coolers and other clubhouse furnishings. Many of these players had New York connections.

when he punched a clubhouse wall after being pulled from a loss to the Baltimore Orioles in 2004. Brown was able to return to the mound two weeks later because he heeded the advice Crash Davis gave Nuke LaLoosh in the film “”: he punched with his nonthrowing hand.

Another Yankees pitcher, to his hands after he slammed them into the plastic announcement holders attached to two swinging doors after getting a quick hook from a 2010 game. Burnett’s injury suggested that the design of the sharp-edged holders may have been as much to blame as the pitcher’s temper.

Mets pitcher Jason Isringhausen broke his left wrist in 1997 when he punched a dugout trash can after a poor outing in a minor league game. He toughed out six more innings for the Norfolk Tides, and the injury was not diagnosed properly until 11 days later.

“He’s not the first player to pound something after a bad inning,” Mets General Manager Joe McIlvaine said at the time. “Unfortunately, he broke something.”

Isringhausen later had a much more serious ailment to contend with: he missed the 1998 season while battling tuberculosis.

McIlvaine was correct about Isringhausen not being the first player to pound something: New York pitchers have long found the clubhouse to be nearly as dangerous as their opponents. Pat Zachry of the Mets tried to kick a batting helmet in frustration in 1978 but struck a clubhouse step instead, breaking his foot. Yankees pitcher Doyle Alexander offered to forfeit a part of his salary after he broke a little finger when punching a wall in 1982. George Steinbrenner accepted the offer.

The list of players with wall-related injuries is dominated by baseball pitchers.

“When they come off the field, especially following a poor performance, they typically are left alone by teammates,” Maher said. “It is during this time period when their emotions can get the best of them.”

Basketball players have unique issues to attend to when trying to vent their emotions productively. There is no dugout to shield them from the eyes of fans, and unlike hockey and football players, they cannot take their aggression out on their opponents without risking a Metta World Peace incident.

“They are out in the open, always visible,” Maher said.

But because they have no easy access to punchable furnishings, basketball players rarely sustain wall or door-inflicted injuries. Darryl Dawkins is one of the few athletes to record a victory in the battle against the building: after being ejected from a Philadelphia 76ers victory over Portland in 1977, he ripped a urinal from a bathroom wall. Dawkins was unharmed.

(Urinals are clearly the wimps among clubhouse fixtures. Billy Martin destroyed one during an angry tirade in 1983 and escaped unscathed.)

Marshall Mintz, a sports psychologist who consults with the United States Olympic team, calls the ability to control the impulse to lash out the “executive skill.” The familiar term “anger management,” he said, is somewhat misleading.

“The other guys in the locker room are angry,” he said. “Thousands of Knicks fans were angry after the loss, but there wasn’t an epidemic of people punching fire extinguishers in the metro area.”

Jeremy Lin’s Evolution

The narrative is well-established, factual in its broadest strokes and altogether flawed, or at least woefully incomplete.

Jeremy Lin’s rise did not begin, as the world perceived it, with a 25-point explosion at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 4. It began with lonely 9 a.m. workouts in downtown Oakland in the fall of 2010; with shooting drills last summer on a backyard court in Burlingame, Calif.; and with muscle-building sessions at a Menlo Park fitness center.

It began with a reworked jump shot, a thicker frame, stronger legs, a sharper view of the court — enhancements that came gradually, subtly, through study and practice and hundreds of hours spent with assistant coaches, trainers and shooting instructors over 18 months.

Quite simply, the Jeremy Lin who revived the , stunned the N.B.A. and charmed the world — the one who is averaging 22.4 points and 8.8 assists as a starter — is not the Jeremy Lin who went undrafted out of Harvard in June 2010. He is not even the same Jeremy Lin who was cut by the Golden State Warriors on Dec. 9.

Beyond the mystique and the mania lies a more basic story — of perseverance, hard work and self-belief.

“He’s in a miracle moment, where everything has come together,” said Keith Smart, the Sacramento Kings coach, who was Lin’s coach with the Warriors last season.

Smart can hardly recognize his former pupil these days. Nor can Eric Musselman, who coached Lin in the N.B.A. Development League for 20 games. Nor can Lamar Reddicks, a former Harvard assistant coach, who fondly remembers a freshman-year Lin as “the weakest guy on the team.”

“I look at him on TV now,” Reddicks said, “and I’m like, I can’t imagine that he’s this big!”

What scouts saw in the spring of 2010 was a smart passer with a flawed jump shot and a thin frame, who might not have the strength and athleticism to defend, create his own shot or finish at the rim in the N.B.A. The evolution began from there.

Eager Learner

Lin earned a free-agent contract with the Warriors after a strong showing in the 2010 summer league, where he surprisingly outplayed John Wall, the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Smart, then an assistant under Don Nelson, noticed something in Lin’s first pickup game against the Warriors’ young stars, Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis.

“He’s getting to the paint,” Smart recalled. “You say, ‘Man, that’s a unique skill.’ Now he needs to pass the ball, as opposed to trying to get to the rim all the time.”

Soon, Smart noticed something else. Lin was the first player at the Warriors’ training center every day, eating breakfast by 8:30 a.m. “Then, all of sudden, you’d hear a ball bouncing on the floor,” Smart said. Practice typically began at noon.

Another assistant, Stephen Silas, began working daily with Lin, and provided him with a catalog of tapes showing elite point guards in the pick-and-roll: how they got into the lane, how they kept the defender on their hip, how they drew in the opposing big man to free up their pick-and-roll partner. Phoenix’s Steve Nash figured prominently. Silas and Lin worked on drills to give Lin other options, like a floater in the lane.

Then Lin would get into a game and try to use what he had learned. But he would over-penetrate and miss the open man.

“It wasn’t there yet,” Smart said.

As for his perimeter game, Smart said, “Jeremy couldn’t shoot at all.”

Lin had a habit then of pulling the ball behind his head and tucking his feet up under him — “like he was springing up off a trampoline,” Smart said.

Still, Lin kept arriving early, leaving late, devouring film and working studiously with Silas and later Lloyd Pierce. But what Lin really needed was game repetition. The Warriors sent him to Reno, their D-League affiliate, on three occasions. That is where the lessons started to take hold.

Stages of Growth

In Lin’s first D-League tour, the focus was primarily on developing his pick-and-roll game.