A homemade sign at last night’s Knicks-Wizards game announced New York point guard Jeremy Lin as “The Next Big Thing.”
That may be the best way to describe the undrafted second-year player from Harvard who has taken the NBA by storm in a matter of days.
Two nights after scoring a career-high 28 points in his first ever start, Lin outdueled last year’s top pick, John Wall, with a 23-point, 10-assist performance in New York’s 107-93 win.
The kids are calling it “Linsanity,” and for a Knicks team that has now won three straight after a miserable 2-11 stretch, Lin arrived at just the right time.
Without top stars Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire in the lineup, Lin has taken over the team’s last three games — and the crowd.
As the Washington Post’s Michael Lee reported after last night’s game, the home crowd at the Verizon Center was too preoccupied with Lin’s big night to even notice their team was on course for its 21st loss.
You’d think fans would be upset that Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire were gone and want a refund for their tickets. Instead, they only booed when Lin picked up his second foul in the first quarter and was forced to head to the bench with his second foul. Other than that, the Wizards were simply a distraction until the next Lin layup or high-rising bank shot, Tyson Chandler dunk or Steve Novak three-pointer.
It was entertaining — and embarrassing for the supposed hosts.
“When you play against certain teams, you know the crowd is against you sometimes,” Wall said after scoring a game-high 29 points on a night when it seemed only he and Trevor Booker came ready to compete for the Wizards.
And now everyone knows that the kid can dunk, too.
“I didn’t know he could dunk,” Chandler told the New York Times. “When he’s going in for it, I go: ‘No, Jeremy! Just lay the ball up.’ And all of a sudden he dunks it.”
With a combined record of 31-47, the Nets, Jazz and Wizards are hardly title contenders this season, so New York’s current winning streak, while a nice change of pace, doesn’t mean they’re ready to compete with the league’s top teams.
But Lin’s play on a short-handed team desperate for a spark is quickly becoming the most intriguing storyline in the lockout-shortened season.
And the chain of events that led to Lin’s current stardom are just as remarkable as his recent play, as Yahoo! Sports columnist Les Carpenter wrote:
Three weeks ago they sent Lin down to their D-League team in Erie, Pa. Had he not played well on Saturday, the guaranteed part of his contract might not have been picked up this week. He would have been out of the NBA. Now people are making signs, taping T-shirts and writing rap songs with his name.
As with many sensations, there is no making sense of all this. The Knicks were through with Lin just like the Golden State Warriors were through with him after last season. The NBA does not draft Taiwanese point guards from Harvard, and Lin certainly didn't fit what the Warriors wanted. They sent him to the D-League. When the Knicks put him on a plane to Erie in late January, Lin was terrified that last year was happening again, that his NBA dream was gone, that he was destined to be an interesting footnote in a long list of international firsts the league loves to tout as it lumbers toward world domination.
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