Exactly a year ago, in the hours before a chilly game between the Knicks and Nets — still inter-state rivals — at Madison Square Garden, “Linsanity” was a term not yet coined, trademarked and screenprinted onto an army of T-shirts, Jeremy Lin wasn’t a household name, Volvo didn’t have an NBA endorser, and the Garden’s sound guy didn’t know he’d break out Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” to close out a home win in an otherwise dreary season for the Knicks. Also a year ago today, Mike D’Antoni was running out of options — even fewer than he has this season, staring down the barrel of a Lakers season without the playoffs. In one of the three-games-in-three-nights arrangements the lockout made necessary, the Knicks showed they had depth issues all over but no place more acute than at point guard. To the point, well, they had to turn to Lin, who had nine DNPs since joining New York a little more than five weeks earlier.
D’Antoni didn’t want to use Lin, because using Lin meant a white flag existed for the coach, even if he wasn’t yet flying it. Read back the post-game quotes like an autopsy and you can see the Knicks running low on reserves and unsure where their next spark would come from. “He is the one who convinced me to play him,” D’Antoni said.
Deconstructing Lin’s breakout 25-points, seven-assists and five-rebounds game — whether it pertains to the execution of the plays or examining your feelings about his validity as a starting NBA point guard still — feels a little like watching the movie that starts at the end, “Memento.” Seeing it now, the ending is known, just as are the other high points of Linsanity. The game-winner in Toronto on Valentine’s Day, the 38 points against the Lakers, the breakup in July. It’s a little bizarre to watch the replay below and see him rush to the scorer’s table with eyes wide and no clue what’s going to happen in the next month, and even stranger to see from the start that he was the Knicks’ most effective scorer, by a large margin (He made one more field goal than Amar’e and Carmelo, combined, that night). You’re watching the beginning of one of the greatest 25-game runs in NBA history, as judged both by statistics, shattered expectations and pure spectacle.
Lin’s legend is just that — a truth wrapped in hype and exaggeration. He went from a twice-cut guard to a $25 million contract in four months because of who fans, media and the Rockets want him to be. But those great expectations have to be built on some sort of foundation, and this game is the start of it. I’m not writing to continue that exaggeration and say he’s the next great point guard. I’m writing to say that the run Lin went on was undeniably real — yes, that’s actually Deron Williams he’s making look like a guy on a 10-day contract — and that’s fun to remember, to cut through that hype. No matter how long his career is, it’s a career longer than anyone expected because of this game.
What do you remember about this game?
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