(Eds: Updates with quotes, details. With AP Photos.)By CHRIS JENKINSAP Sports Writer
Milwaukee is just about the only place New York Knicks forward Steve Novak would draw more TV cameras than far more famous teammate Jeremy Lin.
Novak may have been buried in the avalanche of Lin hype, but the former Marquette star quietly is proving he deserves a place in the NBA. After bouncing around among four teams in his first five seasons, Novak finally has found a productive home in Mike D’Antoni’s high-octane offense.
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Going into Friday night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Novak was No. 2 in the NBA in 3-point percentage, shooting 47.7 percent. Coming off the bench, he has scored in double figures in 10 of his last 15 games.
He credits his success to the Knicks’ aggressive offense and the play of his teammates – especially Lin.
”The way he finds guys in the right spots, gets them the ball, is incredible,” Novak said before Friday morning’s shootaround. ”He’s easy to play with. He puts so much pressure on the defenses. As a shooter, it’s kind of a dream come true.”
New York came to Milwaukee having lost three straight and six of nine. But when the Knicks are at their best, they can score inside or from the perimeter – and Novak has cashed in when his better-known teammates draw the attention of defenders.
”Defenses do have to decide who they’re going to guard that night a lot of times,” Novak said. ”I think because we do have the inside presence, we do have the perimeter presence, and Jeremy and Baron (Davis) really operating it, it makes it tough.”
While Lin usually has the spotlight, he believes teammates such as Novak should get more credit.
”Yeah, definitely,” Lin said. ”As a team, I wish credit was more distributed evenly according to what we do. I think a lot of it has unnecessarily fallen on me, but this team has done a great job, we’ve stayed together and we’re just continuing to build.”
Novak doesn’t mind. He appreciates Lin’s unlikely journey from Harvard to the NBA Development League to Madison Square Garden.
”He’s an unbelievable story,” Novak said. ”I think because of the kid that he is, he’s really fun to watch. He’s a guy who just works his butt off, and has been told, `You can’t do this, you can’t do that’ his whole life. And look at him go.”
Even if that attention does make it harder for the Knicks to go out in public. Novak says they sometimes make Lin wear a hooded sweat shirt with his hat pulled low.
”He’s definitely a rock star, yeah,” Novak said. ”Everybody knows him. We have to put disguises on him when we go out to the movies and stuff. So he’s pretty big-time.”
Milwaukee, however, is Novak’s turf. He grew up in the area and played at Marquette, making the Final Four in 2003 with Dwyane Wade.
Given the demands of friends and family, Novak was leaning on teammates for tickets to Friday night’s game. His family will be there – once his sister’s high school game is over, of course.
”We’re going to try to sneak in as soon as we can,” said Novak’s father, Mike, who coached him in high school and now is the athletic director at nearby Brown Deer High School.
Steve has been in the NBA since 2006, but Mike Novak is now getting to watch his son play in a meaningful role.
”This is Steve’s sixth year,” Mike Novak said. ”He’s worked really hard. He’s always been the shooter that you see out there now. He just needed the time and the opportunity, and given that situation and scenario he’s got right now is fantastically wonderful for him. He’s taking advantage of it. … He’s a good kid, and he deserves it.”
And Novak has brought a little bit of Wisconsin with him to New York: the ”title belt” celebration gesture made popular by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
On the urging of one of the team’s security guards, Novak borrowed Rodgers’ trademark gesture after hitting a big shot in the Knicks’ Feb. 19 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
”It is my Wisconsin association, and I’m such a big Packer fan, I thought it was cool,” Novak said. ”Then it just kind of took off on its own.”
And while Milwaukee always will be home for Novak, he appreciates life in New York.
”It’s sure different than good ol’ Milwaukee,” Novak said. ”We live on like the 33rd floor of a building, which is so different. Usually when you have a dog, you go let it out right in front of the building. Now there’s, like, no grass – anywhere. There’s those little things like that. But it’s a cool experience to be in such a different place from where I grew up.”