In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on February 15, 2012 at 5:05 pm


The Washington Wizards could have Jeremy Lin right now. In reality, every team in the NBA could have Jeremy Lin right now. They all passed on him. All of them.

And, it’s through pretty much shear dumb luck that the Knicks are even the proud owners of Lin at the moment. Because, like the Warriors and Rockets before them, the Knicks had no idea what they had parked on the far end of their bench. Heck, they had him down in the D-League for a game in January.

The All-Ivy League, Harvard grad went undrafted in 2010. And then he mostly spent time on the bench of his hometown Golden State Warriors and ultimately the New York Knicks until injuries, a little luck, and some really rotten play by the Knicks gave Lin the break he needed.

Wizards fans know Lin all too well — 23 points, 10 assists in a 107-93 Knicks’ win on February 8th — Lin’s first-ever NBA double-double.

More serious Wizards fans, if there are any, will recall the 2010 Las Vegas Summer League. Lin, then auditioning for the Dallas Mavericks, outplayed Wizards rookie guard John Wall in their first head-to-head meeting. Wall would be named the Most Outstanding Player of the Vegas League, but was he really just the bigger name?

After all, John Wall was the number one overall pick in the ’10 NBA Draft after a single season at Kentucky. The “can’t miss” guy. The “gotta have him now” guy. The “face of the franchise for years to come” guy.

And now, a season and a half into his NBA career, Wall is the point guard, the quarterback if you will, of a struggling franchise that fired its coach after a less than lackluster start. Wall might be at the point where he realizes that he needs to “realize” his potential. Maybe Lin’s emergence is the alarm clock Wall has needed.

Until Lin got the call off the bench in the midst of a lousy Knicks game with the Nets on February 4th, he had barely been getting single-digit minutes in a handful of games. Since that night, Lin has simply and inexplicably exploded. He helped New York beat the Nets, and the Knicks haven’t lost since. And, the guy from the far end of the bench has not scored under 20 points since Mike D’Antoni gave him what nobody else had been willing to give him—a chance. Jeremy paid the coach back less than a week later when he dropped a career-high 38 on Kobe and the Lakers.

John Wall, in that same 6-game stretch, delivered games of 9 and 14 points. And, Wall has only been able to put together back-to-back 20-point games twice this season.

What I’m getting at is: Talent is really hard to judge… in advance.

Wall looked the part of the all-everything point guard in high school and college. Athletic. Unstoppable. Great dance moves. You get my drift.

Lin, on the other hand, looked nothing like the prototypical point guard despite some really nice performances (he scored 30 in a narrow loss at UConn). Asian-American. Not known for the greatest moves on the court (just ask Jeremy ,himself). Harvard-grad (I read where even Harvard initially regarded him as a Division III talent). You get my drift here, too.

So, how did the NBA, and every major college outside of the Ivy League, completely miss the most exciting thing the sport has seen this century? How did Jeremy Lin go from getting cut on the first day of training camp (new Warriors coach Mark Jackson never even took a look at him), to getting waived on the night before the season opener by Houston, to getting signed by New York as a third-string insurance policy, to playing in the D-League, to turning the Knicks…THE KNICKS… into winners, to watching his #17 jersey fly off store shelves, to being the biggest sports sensation from here to Beijing?

I suspect that roughly 29 NBA owners would like their GMs to explain that right now.

Which brings me to the Redskins…

So, how exactly does Jeremy Lin segue into the Skins?

Well… as we have just seen, talent scouting is not an exact science which is precisely why the Redskins can’t simply bank on finding their “Jeremy Lin” in the upcoming NFL draft.

The Skins desperately need a new “point guard.” They can try to trade up with the Rams, mortgage the future, and get their hands on Robert Griffin III, or they can sit back and hope that a Kirk Cousins, Brandon Weeden, or a Ryan Tannehill falls into their lap.

No matter which approach the Skins take, it will be fraught with peril. Unproven, untested, un-everything is the only way to describe whichever quarterback prospect they choose to draft. Even Peyton Manning wasn’t a “sure thing” when he came out of Tennessee in 1998. Remember Ryan Leaf? It was a 50-50 gamble. Manning or Leaf? The Colts got it right. The Chargers… not so much.

Fourteen years later, of course, Manning is the proven player, the known quantity. Which is why it makes incredible sense to go after him, if he and the Colts choose to part company. Naturally, due diligence is required when it comes to assessing Peyton’s road to recovery from the four neck surgeries and passing the physical. But, Peyton Manning gives the Skins the best chance to win now because whichever college QB they draft (and they absolutely, positively must draft a QB!!!) is a “Ryan Leaf” until he proves otherwise.

Ross, the creator of Throwback Baseball 1.0, also blogs about sports memorabilia at:

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