(Eds: Updates. With AP Photos.)By BRIAN MAHONEYAP Basketball Writer
Linsanity has taken over Madison Square Garden, and even Magic Johnson was captivated watching New York’s newest star.
The only guy who doesn’t seem impressed is Jeremy Lin.
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The Knicks’ new point guard refuses to get his own place to live, just in case the team decides to cut him this week before his contract becomes guaranteed.
He takes no satisfaction in proving he wasn’t a one-hit wonder, because he could be ”like a two-time wonder.”
And no, he doesn’t consider himself all that smart, regardless of that Harvard education.
”That’s a stereotype,” Lin said Tuesday. ”(Former Golden State teammate) David Lee would be the first to tell you, he always calls me the dumbest smart guy he knows. Depends on who you ask I guess.”
Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni knew Lin was intelligent – he had a 4.2 grade-point average in high school. What he didn’t know was whether Lin could play in the NBA, and for a while he was hesitant to find out.
The Knicks struggled out of the gate, and even though D’Antoni had seen glimpses from Lin, he worried this wasn’t the time to turn to a guy who just recently was sent to the NBA Development League.
”I was afraid to do anything, we’re already in a little bit of a crisis and I just can’t be, you know, pulling straws, just trying something, a whim. Other players would be looking at me like `You crazy?’ if it didn’t work,” D’Antoni said. ”Now he just kept showing stuff a little bit, a little bit. When he got one opportunity, he took advantage of it.”
Lin scored 25 points Saturday – after crashing at teammate Landry Fields’ place because his brother, with whom he normally stays, had company. He then scored a career-best 28 Monday in his first NBA start, a victory over Utah as ”Linsanity” was trending on Twitter in New York.
”The excitement he has caused in the Garden, man, I hadn’t seen that in a long time. The way he can penetrate, and can get in that lane, and either shoot it or dish it, has really made them a better basketball team,” said Johnson, the Lakers Hall of Famer who watched both games.
”When they started chanting last night `MVP!’ I fell out. It was really wonderful for the young man. When you get a spark a like this, especially in a season like this, this could carry them for a long time because they needed something to happen positive. Everything has been really negative.”
D’Antoni had already gone through three point guards this season while waiting for Baron Davis to become available. Despite having All-Stars Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, the Knicks struggled to score because they couldn’t find anyone to properly run D’Antoni’s pick-and-roll offense.
The coach said it isn’t that difficult, but it takes some intelligence, something the economics major has plenty of along with some overlooked physical gifts.
”First of all, he has really good speed. He gets into the lane, he gets by people,” D’Antoni said. ”But he has pace in the sense of setting the guy up, sensing where the openings are, and it’s hard to teach. Some guys have it. You can teach certain aspects of it and get him better, but they have to be able to read and stuff, and he can do that.”
Lin wasn’t selected in the 2010 draft and was eventually signed by Golden State, not far from where he starred for Palo Alto High School. He split last season between the Warriors and the D-League, then was waived the day camps opened this season. Houston claimed him but cut him two weeks later, and the Knicks claimed him, with D’Antoni recalling being impressed after seeing Lin work out a year earlier.
It seems unlikely he’ll be hitting the market again anytime soon, but Lin won’t risk it. Contracts become guaranteed for the rest of the season if a player is still on the roster Friday, so he’ll wait for that before checking out the local real estate market. Even though he outplayed an All-Star in the Nets’ Deron Williams on Saturday, he knows he can be the one looking bad Wednesday at Washington against John Wall’s speed.
”The minute as athletes you get complacent, that’s when trouble comes,” Lin said. ”So I’m just trying to stay ready.”
The first American-born NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent, Lin is a natural draw in New York, where Stoudemire said fans love the underdog. But it’s not the box office appeal that matters to his teammates, who saw a promising season slipping away because they had nobody to get them the ball.
Lin’s done that, and the Knicks might need another big effort Wednesday, with both Anthony and Stoudemire expected to miss the game. But Lin guided the Knicks past Utah without them Monday, a surprising victory over a winning team.
Not as surprising as the undrafted Ivy Leaguer becoming the most important player on an NBA team.
”You never know who can step up. It only takes one guy to step up and all of a sudden everything turns and I think that’s the way we’re feeling around here now,” center Tyson Chandler said. ”Jeremy stepped up and put guys back in their natural positions and all of a sudden our offense is flowing.”
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