Lin returns to New York, recalls Linsanity fondly

Jeremy Lin returned Monday to the home he never thought he was
leaving, reflecting fondly on Linsanity but not trying to recreate
it.

Lin made his only trip this season with the Houston Rockets to
Madison Square Garden, where he went from scrub to sensation last
February during a memorable stretch of basketball that made him a
worldwide star.

”It was the time of my life, just being able to play basketball
and for us to win games and do it in the fashion that we did was so
much fun, and energy and buzz, so definitely something I’ll
remember forever,” Lin said during a pregame press conference that
even drew a visit from Spike Lee.

Lin received a loud, appreciative cheer during starting lineups
from fans, some still wearing the Knicks No. 17 jerseys that the
team couldn’t keep on the shelves last winter.

The Knicks insisted he would return, and Lin went into free
agency believing it. But the Knicks declined to match the contract
Lin signed with the Houston Rockets, and Lin said it was ”a little
weird” to return Monday as a visitor. Lin wouldn’t talk much about
the summer, beyond saying everything happens for a reason. But
Knicks coach Mike Woodson, who refused to discuss Lin earlier this
season, seemed to place the blame on Lin for the point guard’s
departure.

Lin originally agreed to an offer sheet with the Rockets worth
about $28 million over four years. The terms were then amended to
about $25 million over three years, the final year worth nearly $15
million but would cost the Knicks more than twice that in luxury
tax payments under the harsher penalties in the new collective
bargaining agreement.

So the Knicks traded for Raymond Felton, and signed Jason Kidd
and Pablo Prigioni.

”We wanted Jeremy back. I made that public back in the summer
when we were going through the recruitment process, but things
changed from a business standpoint and Jeremy decided to take the
Houston deal and he has every right to do that,” Woodson said.

”I think as an organization we’ve moved on. I mean we were able
to go out now and field guys like Kidd and Pablo and Raymond, and
we’re excited about those three guys that we’ve fielded man,
because they’ve come in here and they’ve put us in this position,
in terms of our 18-5 record and sitting at the top of our
division,” Woodson added. ”So it’s no knock against Jeremy, he
did what he had to do, by making his decision and we’ve done what
we did what we had to do and we wish him nothing but the best until
he plays the Knicks.”

In reality, Lin was simply doing what he had to do as a
restricted free agent, since the Knicks weren’t going to make him
an offer until another team had set the market for him. But he had
no complaints about the way the things played out, praising Felton
for the way he’s played for the first-place Knicks.

”It all happened the way it was supposed to,” Lin said.
”Going into this summer, I thought I’d be coming back to New York,
but everything happens for a reason. There’s no hard feelings
either way and right now I’m in a different place in my life,
different chapter, different city, different team.”

Lin came into the game averaging just 10.8 points, far below the
24.6 points and 9.2 assists he averaged in those first 10 games of
Linsanity last Feb. 4-20. Lin may never reach that level again, and
he’s OK with that.

”I just need to stay focused and have tunnel vision when it
comes to that,” Lin said, ”and I don’t think anybody from the
Rockets organization is expecting me to recreate anything and I’m
not, either.”

But he’ll always enjoy thinking about it.

”It will always have a special place no matter how long I play,
because that was the beginning for me,” he said.