So this is how Linsanity ends.
Not with a bang, but with a whispered pre-game announcement on a Saturday evening at Madison Square Garden before a must-win game against a bad Cavaliers team.
Mike Woodson, vindicated after having his weeklong cautionary notes about Jeremy Lin's status disputed by a team trying to sell playoff tickets, announces that Lin is having arthroscopic knee surgery that will keep him out for at least the rest of the regular season.
Just like that, there was no longer even a suggestion that Lin was a phenomenon or some gift from the basketball gods who had some kind of special powers. He's just another point guard subject to the same rules and cruelties of nature as everybody else.
If this were the movie that Lin seemed destined to inspire a couple of months ago, it would be a point where the music swells and tears roll down the face of our hero as he realizes that his dream might have just been smashed into a million pieces. That scene would be followed by the start of the road back, possibly in montage form, before the happy ending that sees our hero back on top of the basketball world.
This is real life, so such an ending is unlikely. For it to happen, the Knicks will probably need to get to the second round of the playoffs, something that will require them to either catch the red-hot Celtics or pull off an upset of the Heat or Bulls. Both things are hard to fathom now that the team is back to the state of affairs that set the stage for Linsanity in the first place.
In three of their four games since Lin went down with his knee injury, the Knicks' offense has resembled the kind of isolation-heavy, grinding offense that made everyone so unhappy over the first two months of the season. Explaining what happened against Orlando last Wednesday, when the offense reached something close to a Platonic ideal, remains difficult although it likely has something to do with New York's abundant nightlife options on the night before a game for a visiting team.
At point guard, Woodson is left with a choice of Baron Davis's dangerously high turnover rate, Mike Bibby's zombie-esque skill set, Toney Douglas' rusty combo guard package or Iman Shumpert's mismatched fit for the position. Not really a choice you'd wish on anyone and one that explains why so many Knicks possessions end with the ball in Carmelo Anthony's hands.
That was once decried as ball stopping of the worst kind, but now it's being hailed far and wide as the way to save the Knicks' season. That's the result of Anthony finding his touch over the last four contests, particularly in Friday night's loss to the Hawks when Anthony nearly carried his listless teammates to a comeback win in Atlanta.
Anthony will likely have to do that a few more times down the stretch this season just to get the Knicks into the playoffs. He came to town to be the man and that's just what he's going to be for the final act of this endlessly evolving Knicks season.
We think it will be the last act, anyway. There may still be a dragon waiting to make its appearance because, honestly, you can't rule anything out at this point.
Anthony will have to be the man and that means he'll also subject himself once more to the capricious nature of New York's basketball observers. If he fails to get this team out of the eighth spot or, even worse, into the playoffs, he'll be right back to being the pariah he was before Lin hit the scene.
He'll be helped this time by a team that actually plays defense, something that's going to be far more crucial now that the team figures to be playing offense like something out of Jeff Van Gundy's fever dreams. That's what makes Shumpert, bad distribution skills and all, an intriguing option at the point the rest of the way.
Playing him with J.R. Smith in the backcourt is obviously the team's best defensive option and, like it or not, Smith gives the team someone other than Anthony who can create for himself. It's not a pretty way to run a basketball team, but focusing on defense and taking what comes on offense is probably the only way to run this basketball team for the rest of this season.
At least until that dragon comes and changes everything all over again.