HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — With all due respect to Jimmer-Mania and the legions of fans who were caught up in that storm this time a year ago, you haven’t seen hoops hysteria like you’re going to see tonight at Madison Square Garden when the Jeremy Lin Show comes back to town.
Jimmer Fredette, himself the epicenter of a basketball movement at BYU, is going to get a New York City-sized dose of “Linsanity” when the Knicks’ conquering hero returns to home soil to take on the Sacramento Kings.
With Lin’s face plastered all over the back page of the tabloids, on magazine covers and all over television screens around the globe, it would be easy for anyone to get swallowed up in the commotion. Most of us are neck-deep in it.
Then you hear Lin speak after sinking that game-winning 3-pointer in Toronto last night and you realize that he’s still floating on the air his play that has elevated the Knicks to these six straight wins.
Lin is winning over observers by the day — a historic six-game run complete with buzzer-beating game winners, scintillating individual performances and the resurrection of a team in disarray has a way of convincing folks. People who didn’t want to believe what they were seeing after the first couple of games are now coming around to the fact that Lin’s New York Minute is going to last a little longer than they might have expected.
Lin has a presence about him that even his predecessors cannot deny.
“You could argue this could be the biggest story of the NBA season,” NBA TV analyst Greg Anthony said during last night’s Heat-Pacers Fan Night broadcast. “I hear more about Jeremy Lin than anything else going on in the NBA. What’s been most impressive is that he never doubted himself. He’s always maintained a certain amount of confidence that he could do it when given the opportunity. It’s not about whether or not he leads them to a championship or is an All-Star, he’s proven he is an NBA player. He’s made the Knicks the talk of the town and not because they were 8 and 13 at one point.”
The “next Steve Nash” comparisons are premature, to say the least. But that doesn’t mean Nash isn’t as caught up in the wave of energy Lin has generated as anyone.
Nash tweeted his appreciation for the breakout star after Lin’s latest big night: “Its crazy! I’m watching Linsanity hoping every shot goes in. Hope I never grow up.”
You know Knicks fans and anyone that loves a good “Lin-derella” story feel the same way. The Knicks have a five-game home stand to try to make up even more ground in the Eastern Conference standings, starting with tonight’s tilt against the Kings. Now that Amar’e Stoudemire is back and already comfy playing alongside Lin, the only remaining hurdle is the return of Carmelo Anthony and how he blends in to the new-look Knicks lineup.
Don’t count us among those who are worried that Anthony and Lin won’t be able to thrive together. Anthony has played with a strong point guard before, he went to the Western Conference finals in Denver with Chauncey Billups running the show. Meshing those two and Stoudemire together is the responsibility of coach Mike D’Antoni and his staff, a group whose fortunes have also been bolstered by Lin’s rise. If you think they’re going to do anything to disturb this run, you’re crazy.
Basketball aside, Lin continues to leave an impression in his wake. He snatched a game away from the Raptors last night but inspired the sort of reactions that Bruce Arthur of the National Post makes clear here:
Stuff like this is why Jeremy Lin’s existence had become a forensic investigation. How a skinny kid with Taiwanese parents in Palo Alto, Calif., could not procure a college scholarship, got into Harvard, majored in economics and excelled on the court, but went undrafted after four years. How he spent a year on Golden State’s bench, how two NBA teams waived him, how he wound up as New York’s fifth point guard, how he was one Baron Davis injury setback from being set adrift again. How he was sleeping on his brother’s couch when the Knicks ran out of options, threw him out there like bait, and watched open-mouthed as he became a star.
“I would say it’s a miracle just because anytime something like this happens, a lot of stuff has to be put into place, and a lot of it is out of my control,” said Lin, 23, before the game. “If you look back at my story, it doesn’t matter where you look, but God’s fingerprints are all over the place, where there’s been a lot of things that had to happen that I just couldn’t control. And you could try to call it coincidence, but at the end of the day there’s 20, 30 things, when you combine them all, that had to happen at the right time for me to be here. So that’s why I call it a miracle.”
That’s life, of course, and it’s up to you how you explain it. But given Lin’s supernova explosion — he scored more points in his first four pro starts than any player since 1976, after a season and a half’s worth of garbage time — it’s all steeped in significance now.
“Just everything,” said D’Antoni, when asked to name the best part about Lin’s story.
One of the best parts is that it’s clearly not over yet.
“When you see what Lin has done — bringing new people to the game — I really love it because you are going to see others bring players to the game,” NBA TV and TNT analyst Chris Webber said during Fan Night. “He’s earned it. I like the fact that it happened. Are they going to win the Championship? Who knows? But right now he’s playing hard and you are seeing someone being rewarded for their work ethic.
“You love people that bring your interest up to a different level and he even said he likes the pressure at the end of games. He is very humble and he loves his teammates. What we have seen is toughness and he has earned this position.”