The most intriguing image, however, was the sight of and Baron Davis playing together in the backcourt. In games, Davis, a former All-Star who is working his way back to full fitness after a herniated disk, backs up Lin at point guard. On Wednesday night, , Lin played 33 minutes and Davis 15.
For the moment, at least, it is a ratio that keeps Lin from being overworked and allows Davis enough minutes to scrape off the rust after .
But on a Knicks team that is suddenly much deeper than it was, with a revitalized second unit challenging the starters in practice and in games, putting Lin and Davis together gives Coach one more option as he tries to figure out ways to get a lot of players sufficient playing time.
On Friday, when they were playing as a tandem, Davis ran the offense and Lin worked hard off the ball. Afterward, Davis seemed to relish the idea of their combination, telling reporters that Lin would be “extremely effective” in that setup.
Explaining it in the context of the Knicks’ offense, Davis said: “Whoever has the ball is the guy making plays. Everybody else is spacing, waiting for opportunities to make the secondary play. So you put Jeremy on the ball, he’s going to make plays. You swing the ball to him with somebody running at him, he’s even more dangerous, you know what I mean? Because the defense has already been broken down.”
Lin, drenched in sweat, called Davis a “great mentor,” and noted that he played off the ball often at Harvard.
“I’m comfortable doing it,” Lin said. “I don’t have to have all the ball-handling responsibilities.”
D’Antoni said: “They can play together. Whether you want that or not, we’ll see. Because that means either J. R., Shumpert, Novak, Melo; somebody is not playing.”
Divvying up the point-guard minutes has the potential to be a sensitive issue for the Knicks because of Davis’s status as a star player when healthy. If he feels capable of playing more minutes in the weeks ahead, he could begin to feel frustrated if he is not. Putting him together with Lin is one way around that issue.
Actually, the Knicks are looking at everything these days, including advanced metrics. At Thursday’s practice, Lin mentioned that the Knicks players were being shown statistical breakdowns that revealed points scored per 100 possessions, a newer, and increasingly popular way to measure success on offense. Lin said he was not aware of advanced statistics at Harvard, and credited the Knicks’ coaching staff with providing a tutorial.
“We just showed the team where they stand leaguewide,” D’Antoni said when asked about the metrics. “That our defense is getting better and our offense was really bad.”
With most teams sending representatives to the sixth annual in Boston this weekend, the Knicks say they do not want to be left behind. They, too, are aware of how the game is changing.
“Statistics, most teams do it,” D’Antoni said. “We’re trying to evolve and use it even more as a tool. Again, nothing is definitive in the sense of, ‘O.K., stats say this, this is what we’re doing.’ ”
“Numbers, they can lie to you, too,” he added. “So you’ve got be careful about only numbers. You have to have a sense of how the team’s playing, mentally how they feel.”
Nevertheless, statistics, both traditional and advanced, will come into play as D’Antoni and his staff try to figure out how to divide 48 minutes by 9 or 10 or 11 players.
“I think you use all the tools you have,” he said. Including pairing Davis and Lin.