By Matt Moore
In this week's edition of the Friday 5, Ken Berger discusses Linsanity, Bulls minutes, and who's on the trade block headed into All-Star Weekend. You can follow Ken Berger on Twitter @KBergCBS.
1. So, hey, that Jeremy Lin kid's pretty good. We've beaten the subject into the ground here at CBSSports.com this week, but it bears opening the Friday 5 nonetheless. Let's forget about how Melo fits in, or D'Antoni, or even Lin's play directly. Is the best thing for the Knicks about this run that it's brought the locker room together and they're having fun again?
Ken Berger: Well, I think that's a by-product of what Lin has brought to the table. Among the many elements of this perfect storm was the fact that the Knicks were running the most point guard-dependent offense in the sport and had some of the worst point-guard play anyone had ever seen. Plug in a competent point guard, and the Knicks would've played better. Plug in someone performing as well as Lin has performed, and you have the makings of something special. So it started with Lin's production, which has instilled confidence in the locker room and made everyone relax in an environment that can be extremely high on stress. The Knicks now believe they can win, and confidence is a big part of the battle.
2. You wrote in Post-Ups this week about the Heat flying under the radar. How good is that for them to avoid the spotlight for a few weeks?
KB: Who? Oh, the Heat. I'm not sure it's either good or bad for them. I think it's great for the league as a whole that people are captivated by something other that how LeBron and Wade are getting along or playing together on any given day. And the fact that people are captivated by basketball being played the right way, an enjoyable way, is a pleasing diversion from the usual poisoned brew of trade demands, coaches getting fired, agent agendas, egos colliding and the like.
3. I've been critical of Tom Thibodeau and his approach to minutes with Luol Deng and Derrick Rose with various injuries considering the long-term goals of the Bulls in this insane schedule. But I'm not a doctor and I'm not a trainer. In your mind, if the doc's say it's fine and the trainers say it's fine, should Thibodeau just disregard the notion of exhaustion, and if so, is it because they really do need that top seed?
KB: I'm not a doctor or a trainer, either. And Thibodeau presumably learned how to manage minutes from one of the masters in that department, Doc Rivers. I think the time off due to back spasms will do Rose some good. But to a degree, when he's healthy, he's going to be on the floor for 38-plus minutes. Same goes for Deng, especially if you're in a close game and the opponent (like the Celtics, for example, with Paul Pierce) has an elite wing scorer who needs to be dealt with. It's a fine line with this schedule for coaches between resting their stars and winning as many games as possible. To get where they want to go, the Bulls need homecourt advantage. Once they secure that, Rose and Deng and anybody else who needs to put themselves back together for the playoffs can have as many minutes off as they need.
4. Ken, I know you've enjoyed writing about actual basketball for the past few weeks. But trade season's back, bro. Who are you expecting to be chattering next weekend in Orlando?
KB: Well, of course there will be the Dwight-fest. After that, I think the biggest name being discussed will be Steve Nash. A point guard could make all the difference in the world to the Lakers and Magic. For the same reason, Ramon Sessions will be on the radar.
5. With J.R. Smith joining the Knicks, what was the driving force behind his decision and what should the Knicks be concerned about with him, if anything?
KB: J.R. seemed to enjoying the process of being recruited, and will wind up with more money at the end of the day by joining the Knicks. The way Lin has the Knicks' offense humming, J.R. could see a lot of future dollar signs swishing through the Nets at Madison Square Garden. Even off the bench, he could be an electrifying scorer in Mike D'Antoni's offense. Plus, he's played with Anthony before, so there's a comfort level there, and Knicks official Mark Warkentien was a big supporter of Smith when both were in Denver. Concerns? What concerns? Oh, yeah, J.R. is a knucklehead. But he's a knucklehead who can make a jump shot. So the risk-reward is pretty heavily in the Knicks' favor.