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Posted at 04:04 PM ET, 02/10/2012

Lakers vs. Knicks: Jeremy Lin hosts Kobe Bryant & Co.

Fans visiting the New York Knicks Web site tonight will be greeted with a giant cutout image of the Big Apple’s newest star.

In seven days, Jeremy Lin has gone from an afterthought on the bench likely to be cut to the hot new sensation in the NBA with his own app.


Linsanity is upon us, indeed.

And just as suddenly, a mid-season matchup between old cross-country rivals is Friday night’s main event. When the Knicks host Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and the Lakers tonight at Madison Square Garden, millions will be watching around the world. No Melo and Amare? No problem. Jeremy Lin is now the No. 1 attraction.

ESPN is hosting an extravagant viewing party for the game — in Taiwan. And on Thursday, the NBA announced the its Asian TV partners are frantically adding Knicks games broadcast schedules.

Lin’s surging popularity is a marketing dream for the NBA, which lost its ambassador to Asia when Yao Ming retired last summer. Meantime, Lin’s play has helped the Knicks reel off three straight wins for only the second time this season.

For one forlorn NBA owner, hindsight has never been more crystal clear. When Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob signed Lin as an undrafted rookie last season, he acknowledged that the team hoped the addition of a Chinese American could help its popularity in a state with roughly five million people of Asian descent. The Warriors passed on their chance to resign Lin, and now — like many other NBA teams — they’re kicking themselves.

(Rob Carr - Getty Images)
“I’m in­cred­ibly happy for him,” Lacob told Sports Illustrated’s Sam Amick during his round at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. “But we were walking up and down the fairways here today, and I’m saying, ‘Son of a (expletive). We were right.’

“Do I feel vindicated? Yes. Do I feel bad, however, that somehow we didn’t manage to keep him? I do.”

After leading the Knicks to wins over the Nets, Jazz and Wizards, viewers will get to see how Lin handles a much more formidable foe. While the Lakers have been up and down this season, they’re coming off a dramatic 88-87 overtime win in Boston on Thursday night and will be eager to close out a six-game, 10-day road trip on a high note.

Can the Lakers keep the Knicks from ‘Linning’ or will Linsanity continue?

More from Washington Post Sports:

Mike Wise: Three games removed from bench, Lin ready for Lakers

Lin can be an inspiration to Chinese Americans

Lin is the ‘The Next Big Thing’ in the NBA

NBA’s Asian TV partners add Knicks games to schedules

Lin wins over the Wizards — and their crowd

Lin is lightning up the Big Apple

Harvard grad Lin blazes unique trail to NBA

By  |  04:04 PM ET, 02/10/2012

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