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Dissecting the Evolution of New York Knicks' Jeremy Lin-Sanity

Josh Martin@@JoshMartinNBANBA Lead WriterFebruary 13, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 10:  Jeremy Lin #17 of the New York Knicks brings the ball up court against the Los Angeles Lakers at Madison Square Garden on February 10, 2012 in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

So how did we get here?

How did we get to a place where Linsanity was more than just a joyous disease contracted by fervent fans of the New York Knicks? How did we get to a place and time where Jeremy Lin went from a D-League couch surfer to the hottest commodity in the NBA since the advent of the three-point shot?

It hasn't even been two weeks yet, and the media firestorm has already vetted Lin's remarkable story 100 times over, from his Taiwanese-American upbringing and his inability to garner an athletic scholarship despite leading Palo Alto High School to a California state championship, to his degree in economics from Harvard and his spate of 10-day contracts in pursuit of his pro basketball dream.

But before we all get lost in the trees of Lin's remarkable rise from basketball afterthought to Eastern Conference Player of the Week, let's have a look at where Lin's been and where he may be headed from here on out.

In the Be-Lin-ing

Our (admittedly abbreviated) story begins on Dec. 27, when our hero, Jeremy Lin, was claimed off waivers by the New York Knicks, just three days after he was cut loose by the Houston Rockets. With Chauncey Billups gone and Baron Davis healing from his recurring back problems, the Knicks were desperate for any manner of point guard help they could find, any warm body who could handle and distribute the ball in Mike D'Antoni's offense while Toney Douglas was out with an injury.

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He made his Knicks debut the next day against the Golden State Warriors, spending one warmly-welcomed minute on the court at Oracle Arena, where he'd played sparingly alongside Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry last season.

Lin took to the floor for the Knicks just four times over the next three weeks before he was sent down to the Erie Bayhawks of the D-League. Three days later, Lin posted a triple-double (28 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists) in a 122-113 victory over the Maine Red Claws.

And three days after that, Lin was back with the big club, ready for his close-up.

And again, Lin was used only sparingly before D'Antoni granted him 20 minutes of playing time against the Houston Rockets on Jan. 28, which he put to good use with nine points, three rebounds, six assists and a steal.

All the while, Lin was spending nights on his brother's couch, never quite sure whether he'd actually stay long enough to hold down a place of his own.

Photo Credit: Landry Fields
Photo Credit: Landry Fields

The Lin Dynasty

It wasn't until Feb. 4, though, that the phenomenon known now as Linsanity first caught fire. With the Knicks down 21-16 in the first quarter against the New Jersey Nets and the team having won just two of its previous 13 games, D'Antoni threw caution to the wind and Lin into the fire.

Lin promptly carpe'd the diem, producing 25 points, five rebounds, seven assists and two steals in a 99-92 victory for New York. Lin's performance came as a pleasant surprise of everyone in Madison Square Garden that night, particularly D'Antoni, who'd been tossed onto the hot seat by the local media amidst a shambolic season that'd seen superstars Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire struggle to coexist and the Knicks failing to win at a favorable pace as a result.

Then, two nights later, came 28 points and eight assists in his first start—a 99-88 win over the visiting Utah Jazz—without 'Melo and Amar'e.

Then, two nights after that, Lin posted his first virtuoso performance on the road against a marquee point guard, piling up 23 points, four rebounds and 10 assists in a 107-93 breeze over John Wall and the Washington Wizards.

Then, after another two nights, Lin put on the show of his life for a national audience on ESPN, pouring in 38 points, four rebounds, seven assists and two steals while outdueling Kobe Bryant in a 92-85 coming-out party against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Garden.

Lin finally started to fall out of the stratosphere the very next night in a 100-98 nailbiter over the Minnesota Timberwolves, in which he accounted for "only" 20 points, six rebounds, eight assists and three steals in 39 minutes.

And understandably so. After playing just 55 minutes in nine games prior to Feb. 4, Lin had shouldered the burden of playing 39 minutes per night over a five-game stretch. Chances are, the kid's legs were just a bit tired from all of that action.

Luckily for Lin, he'll have had three days of rest by the time he and Knicks resume their resurgence against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday.

Deep Lin-pact

Lin's impact on the Knicks since ascending into the starting lineup has been felt far beyond the basketball court, though owning the NBA record for most points scored in the first four starts of a career ain't too shabby, either.

Darren Rovell of CNBC's Sports Biz provided a succinct breakdown via Twitter of the economic implications of Lin's rise on the Knicks brand, first in sales and traffic to the team's website:

Then, in an uptick in the average price of Knicks tickets on the secondary market:

Most importantly, in a rather dramatic rise in the ratings and profitability of MSG, the Knicks' cable television network, despite an ongoing dispute between team owner James Dolan and Time Warner Cable that's kept the team's games out of scores of homes in the New York metropolitan area:

But the economic benefits of Linsanity aren't limited to the Knicks and their broadcast partners. As Mike Ozanian of Forbes suggests, Lin is the unassuming face of the world's fastest-growing athlete brand, which he values at roughly $14 million based on MSG's rapidly expanding market value.

In other words, Lin may soon be rich beyond his wildest dreams if he continues to perform at the brilliant pace he's established over the last week-and-a-half.

Lin-ing the Future

The question remains: Will Lin be able to live up to the considerable hype that's been built up around him?

The phenomenon is due to enter a new phase this week with the returns of Carmelo and Amar'e to the Knicks rotation. As such, Lin will be under an even finer, more scrutinizing microscope as the national media tunes in to his every move to see if he's the real deal, if he can keep it up, if he can seamlessly blend his considerable skills with those of New York's superstars, both of whom are black holes on offense and liabilities on defense.

It will also be seen if he can continue to play big minutes on the biggest stage in basketball for a team that needs him to be at his best to be competitive, night in and night out, and climb the Eastern Conference playoff standings as a result.

These are valid concerns, though all indications thus far suggest that Linsanity may soon morph into the new paradigm underlying Knicks basketball. For one, Lin has (or appears to have) the full support of his teammates, even Carmelo Anthony, who said of Lin:

Just as important is Lin's own outlook, which has remained level-headed and humble as the adoration and attention has exploded exponentially in recent weeks, despite the Worldwide Leader in Sports naively touting him as one of the league's best point guards.

And of course, there's the bit about Lin's basketball skills, namely his proficiency in the pick-and-roll, which should allow him to thrive alongside 'Melo and Amar'e so long as the team keeps winning.

Or "Lin-ing," if you're more inclined to seize upon the never-ending litany of puns that Jeremy's last name has afforded.

In all likelihood, Lin's production will tail off now that he'll be the third option, at best, for the Knicks. That being said, so long as Lin remains productive and continues to spread his infectious energy to his teammates, he'll be the starting point guard on Madison Avenue for the foreseeable future.

And, above all, Jeremy Lin will have achieved his dream of playing in the NBA in the most roundabout road to stardom the league has yet seen.

 

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