Which New York Knicks Player Can Be This Year's Jeremy Lin?
There may never be anything like "Linsanity" again at Madison Square Garden.
The emergence of Jeremy Lin last year, coming from the obscurity of an undrafted, twice-waived Harvard pedigree to a world-wide phenomenon, is an unrepeatable act. But is there a player on the Knicks roster who can come close to catching the affection that Lin cultivated?
Could there be a dose—albeit not as raging—of insanity in New York in the form of Kidd-sanity or Cope-sanity? Rasheed Wallace certainly brings his own version of insanity. Felton Fever?
With all of the promise of this version of the Knicks, can anyone capture hearts the way that Lin did?
Felton was tasked with the job of taking over for Lin, who was allowed to depart for the Houston Rockets as a free agent. Felton also provided the hint to Lin that his days in New York were numbered after Lin read the story flying across the web that the Knicks had traded for Felton.
Now, whether Felton can replace Lin in the hearts of fans is another story, but he has already shown capable on the court. Two years ago he endeared himself to New York by tossing in lobs to Amar'e Stoudemire before being sent to Denver in the deal that brought Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks.
What's Felton got? Well, those lobs have already resurfaced and the memories have been shaken. He's also got a chance of guiding a better Knicks team this time around. Wins equals hysteria? Well, still not likely Lin-Sanity.
He is making a final stop in his long career before checking into Springfield and the Basketball Hall of Fame. But even if it's his final stop, he still has something left to give with his 40th birthday arriving in March.
Among the best point guards ever to play the game, Kidd started the Knicks first three games at shooting guard and his role will be there at times and a back-up role at others. But even if his role is reduced from his All-NBA days, he has made an immediate impact. He has provided leadership that has rippled up and down the roster and has a penchant for making the right play and draining the big shot play into the history of the Knicks, even if it only seems as if he was already playing when the Knicks last won a title in 1973.
What really separated Lin was his story. Copeland has one, too.
He grew up in Newark, where he still has family and friends. He went to the University of Colorado and then, like Lin, went undrafted. But while Lin was able to hang around the fringes of NBA rosters, Copeland was relegated to the developmental league for a year before heading across the Atlantic Ocean to spend five seasons in Belgium, Germany and Spain.
He joined the Knicks at the Las Vegas Summer League and impressed—although the Knicks were hardly enamored. He got an invite to training camp. With the Knicks nursing an assortment of bumps and bruises, he got a chance for steady minutes and averaged 15.5 points per game, including a 34-point effort against the Celtics.
It wasn't exactly the magical run that Lin embarked upon, but it did impress and earn him a spot. He doesn't have the Harvard pedigree, but with dreadlocks that make him distinctive, the ability to fly for dunks and drain three-pointers, he could find himself the focus of New York fans.
Rasheed? Likable? Really?
Well, they say absence makes the heart grow fonder and after a two-year retirement, Wallace returned to the NBA and has emerged as a fan favorite.
Or, as he put it after his first game when the Madison Square Garden chanted his name in the final minutes with the Knicks winning a one-sided game, "I accept my Brian Scalabrine role."
That has only grown with him coming off the bench again when the crowd chants began in the next game and then increasing his minutes in the first road game. And then there are the quotes, the ones that have teammates laughing and shaking their heads.
Could Wallace, at 38 years old, find himself a phenomenon? Stranger things have happened. Well, maybe they haven't.
Steve Popper is the Knicks beat writer and NBA columnist for the Bergen Record. All quotes, unless otherwise noted, were obtained through press conferences and interviews.
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