TrueHoop: Calvin Murphy

Lin makes the difference for the Knicks

February, 19, 2012
By ESPN Stats & Info
Jeremy Lin
Jeremy Lin scored 28 points and added career highs of 14 assists and five steals as the New York Knicks defeated the Dallas Mavericks 104-97, their eighth win in their past nine games.

Lin is the first player this season to reach those totals in a game and just the second Knicks player to do it since steals were first tracked in 1973-74.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that only four players since the NBA-ABA merger -- Bernard King, Shaquille O’Neal, Brandon Jennings and Michael Jordan -- have scored more points in their first eight career starts than Lin’s 200.

He also had seven turnovers -- six in the second half -- his sixth straight game with at least six turnovers, setting an NBA record (according to Elias).

Despite the turnovers, Lin makes a huge difference for the Knicks. New York outscored the Mavericks by 14 points during the nearly 46 minutes Lin played Sunday. When he was on the bench, the Knicks got outscored by seven points in just two minutes.

The Knicks are also much better in the paint with Lin on the court. This season their field-goal percentage in the paint is nearly seven percentage points higher with Lin on the court than off.

New York takes more than half of its shots (51 percent) and scores nearly half of its points (47 percent) in the paint when Lin is on the court, compared to just 43 and 40 percent, respectively, when he’s on the bench.

Sunday, the Knicks went 22-for-37 and scored 44 points in the paint with Lin on the floor.

Lin himself has attempted 64 percent of his field goals in the paint this season, the fifth-highest percentage by a guard (min. 100 FGA). He’s scored or assisted on 58 percent of the Knicks’ points in the paint when he’s been on the court.

In the past nine games, since first getting meaningful minutes, he’s averaging nearly 39 minutes per game, which would be second in the league if he qualified.

In the past eight games -- the first eight starts of his career -- he’s averaging 25.0 PPG and 9.5 APG. According to Elias, since the NBA began recording starts in 1970, Calvin Murphy for the 1970-71 San Diego Rockets is the only other player to average at least 20.0 PPG and 7.0 APG in the first eight starts of his career.

Lin still has plenty of his career in front of him, but his first eight starts stack up nicely when compared to the best point guards of the past 30 years.

None of them scored more points and John Stockton is the only one with more assists than Lin in the first eight starts of his career.

The other day I linked to video of robots doing various somewhat basketball-related tasks, like dribbling a ping pong ball.

The thing was, however, some of the robots in the video weren't doing anything remotely related to hoops. Like twirling a stick between robot fingers, for instance, or flipping something up in the air and catching it.

Chris Bernucca of Pro Basketball News (read his schedule analysis, by the way, very interesting that only eight teams will be on ABC this year) corrected my thinking. Turns out baton twirling may have a place in elite hoops.

He says the twirling might be a robot's attempt to imitate the great Calvin Murphy.


Yes, Bernucca tells me that Murphy -- has there ever been a better 5-9 player? -- was a master of the baton, and there's video to prove it.

Two great things about that video:

  • Murphy insists the baton helps his handle, and his demonstration is convincing.
  • Red Auerbach won't endorse the baton as hoops training (and seems a taken aback that Murphy asks him just to hold the thing for a second). But he's insistent that being close to the ground can make you hard to guard, and that Murphy has proven being small is no impediment in basketball. Auerbach doesn't want to hear any excuses from little people.