Lin makes Knicks a story, but are they contender?

Apart from all the Jeremy Lin headlines, the New York Knicks
think they are a story, too.

While almost all the attention this month belonged to their
point guard, the Knicks got Baron Davis back from injury, signed JR
Smith and discovered Steve Novak, who had been sitting right next
to Lin at the end of their bench.

Lin’s rise from undrafted Harvard grad to NBA star made him an
international sensation, but he hopes the attention will switch
from himself to his team.

”I mean, we’re unbelievably talented and you look on the
headlines, you look on ESPN, you see `Lin this’ and `Lin that,”’
he said Tuesday. ”But we may be the deepest team in the NBA, so I
think we should start talking about that as well.”

That depth will no doubt help Lin. He is not used to so many
minutes and was clearly fatigued in his dismal game against Miami
last Thursday. He shot 1 of 11 from the field, committed eight
turnovers while looking overwhelmed against the Heat’s defensive
schemes. He eight points and three assists in a 102-88 loss.

”I just thought he was tired, and the exact same plays Baron
had no problem with and Jeremy shuffled a little bit,” coach Mike
D’Antoni said. ”He had a bad game and I think he was tired, and I
think that was the first time he’s seen it. Baron’s seen that about
a thousand times and that’s what happens.

”We have to understand that Jeremy’s an unbelievable story.
He’s gone from nothing to a real good player in the league. But he
is a rookie, this is the first time he’s seeing things, and now
we’re talking about him getting to the level of a Steve Nash or
Baron Davis or Russell Westbrook, or (Rajon) Rondo.”

Lin is actually in his second year, but he played so sparingly
last season for Golden State he has the experience of a first-year
player.

”So he’ll have a learning curve and there will be nights where
he won’t look good, but I think he’s a very good player and we’re
going to ride him and he’ll just keep getting better,” D’Antoni
said.

Lin is refreshed now, playing just a few minutes in the Rising
Stars Challenge at All-Star weekend before heading off to a beach
vacation with family. The rest will come in handy Wednesday, when
he has to face No. 1 draft pick Kyrie Irving of Cleveland in the
Knicks’ second-half opener.

New York is 17-18, having gone 9-3 with Lin in the rotation.
Rookies Iman Shumpert (left knee tendinitis) and Josh Harrellson
(broken right wrist) will return Wednesday, and Davis should start
to find a shot that’s been missing in his first three games of the
season following a herniated disk.

”We feel more confident now because Jeremy’s playing great at
the point guard position. We were waiting on Baron to get back,
Baron’s looking better and better and he’s working out hard, so we
feel that we have enough on this team to win a championship,”
forward Amare Stoudemire said. ”We have the right personnel, the
right players and the right mind frame, just a matter of us going
out and playing the right way. And if we do that, we can do
something special.”

Stoudemire would have to play much better than he did while
averaging 17.5 points on 44.7 percent shooting, well off his career
averages. He admitted he wasn’t in basketball shape after the
lockout, when he added too much muscle after his workouts and grew
to 260 pounds after playing at 245 last season. He said he’s down
to 250 now and might drop a few more, and predicts a strong final
31 games.

”It’s going to be great. Every second half of the year, I have
a tendency to turn it up because you know how important it is,” he
said. ”After the All-Star break, getting that momentum going to
the postseason is always very, very key. You’re playing at your
best going into the postseason, so it’s going to be an incredible
second half of the year for me.”

Davis believes Stoudemire and the starters will get a big boost
from the reserves, who he said can quicken the pace when they
enter.

”We know we have the talent coming off the bench to make a
difference, increase the lead and if we have the lead, expand on
the lead. So our job is to bring that high energy,” Davis said.
”When you look at the type of talent that we have coming off the
bench, it’s scary to a lot of other teams that have to play us. So
we want to use that to our advantage every time we step out on the
floor.”

The Knicks have climbed to seventh in the Eastern Conference and
trimmed struggling Philadelphia’s Atlantic Division lead to t 3 1/2
games. Perhaps Lin is right and they are more than him.

Maybe they’re a contender.

”I think as a team we’re hungry, because we understand what we
have. We understand that we have a chance if we get this thing
right, if we can start building chemistry and go on a winning
streak, we could be dangerous,” Lin said. ”So that’s what our
team’s focused on.”