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.”