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Grant Chapman: 'Linsanity' reminder for New York City

opinion

By Grant Chapman

Published: 11:15AM Thursday December 20, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

For just one day, New York Knicks fans got to reminisce on a phenomenon that had them giddy with excitement just a few short months ago.

Except this time, "Linsanity" was coming at them from the visitors' bench.

And it was somewhat fitting that when Taiwanese point guard Jeremy Lin swept back into Madison Square Garden with his new Houston Rockets outfit, Knicks star Carmelo Anthony was nowhere to be seen.

As the Rockets ran all over the Knicks 109-96 - with Anthony nursing a sprained ankle on the bench - you had to wonder what might have been if things had worked out differently for Lin.

Yep, they were heady days alright - those couple of weeks when a series of injuries, including one to Anthony, saw the cute Asian kid thrust into the spotlight in one of the toughest markets in American sport.

His whole career, he'd been unwanted. Growing up in Palo Alto, California, he received no scholarship offers coming out of high school and was undrafted out of Harvard University.

As last season began, Lin was dumped by his hometown Golden State Warriors, briefly trialled for the Houston Rockets and finally found a place with the Knicks as, effectively, their fifth-string point guard.

New York were playing so badly - they had lost 11 of their previous 13 games - that then-coach Mike D'Antoni (now with the LA Lakers) put Lin in a game out of desperation and the rest is history.

Off the bench, he led them to victory over the New Jersey Nets and then another, as a starter, over the Utah Jazz. With his stars Anthony and Amare Stoudemire injured, D'Antoni stated he would ride Lin "like freaking Secretariat" and so started an unbelievable journey that delivered seven straight wins.

He outscored Kobe Bryant (38-34) in a victory over the Lakers, but his most incredible performance came against the Toronto Raptors, when he hit the buzzer-beating three-pointer that decided the game. Legend has it, the Lakers were watching on TV and Metta World Peace got so excited, he ran past reporters, waving his arms in the air and shouting "Linsanity! Linsanity!"

So the phenomenon found a name.

Just as exciting as his scoring and winning, Lin had brought camaraderie to an outfit that previously seemed completely devoid of it. For the first time, the Knicks were playing for each other, and many wondered how this could possibly continue once Anthony and Stoudemire returned.

It couldn't. The guys with the heavyweight contracts returned, the Knicks fired D'Antoni and Lin's play declined under the new regime, until he too fell to injury - a torn cartilage in his knee - and elected to have season-ending surgery.

Everyone expected the Knicks to re-sign Lin and the franchise even engaged veteran Jason Kidd to supposedly mentor him. But they also encouraged Lin to test the free-agent market and Houston, probably realising their earlier mistake, came up with an offer that New York opted not to match - to the chagrin of their fans.

Instead, the Knicks returned Raymond Felton, who had left as part of the trade that brought Anthony to NYC,

It hasn't been an easy season for Lin and it got harder when the Rockets pulled their late Kevin Martin-James Harden trade. Harden has quickly become their dominant player - much like Anthony in New York - leaving Lin trying to figure out where he stands all over again.

But he saved one of his best performances for his old team - 22 points and eight assists - and when Knicks centre Tyson Chandler clobbered him with a hard foul on Tuesday, there was a little grin of mutual respect.

Both sides of this deal have ended up in a better place. Lin has landed on the NBA's youngest roster with a chance to make this team a playoff contender, maybe not this season, but certainly in the future - if his body can stand up to the rigors of an 82-game schedule.

It's also an appreciative fan base that not so long ago was cheering on another Asian star - 2.28m Yao Ming.

The Knicks are now a veteran team that's firing on all cylinders and about to get a key piece - Stoudemire, injured again - back on court.

They're built for NOW and maybe Lin still has a bit to learn before he can quarterback a championship contender.

Still, "Linsanity" will always hold a special place in the history of MSG.

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