Show of hands—how many people knew who Jeremy Lin was two weeks ago? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t, because he was virtually unknown, even to Knicks fans, up until the eve of the Super Bowl.
If he were to take a stroll down Times Square or catch a bus to downtown Manhattan, it’s safe to assume more than 99 percent of New Yorkers would not have known who he was—until last week that is.
Going undrafted out of Harvard University in the 2010 NBA draft, Lin’s road to the NBA was far from easy. After signing a two-year rookie contract with the Golden State Warriors in July 2010, Lin played sparingly, getting most of his minutes in garbage time.
Shortly after the end of the 2011 NBA lockout, Golden State cut Lin and he was claimed off waivers by the Houston Rockets. His stint with Houston was short-lived; Lin was waived on Christmas eve, the day before the start of the NBA season. On Dec. 27, he was claimed by the Knicks, but barely got meaningful minutes.
Frustrated with an underachieving 8-15 team which had lost 11 of its previous 13 games, head coach Mike D’Antoni decided to shake things up. On Feb. 4, he played Jeremy Lin 35 minutes off the bench against the New Jersey Nets, and Lin responded by scoring a career-high 25 points while dishing seven assists.
Two days later he made his first career start against the Utah Jazz, and scored 28 points with eight assists. Lin continued to impress, averaging 27 points and nine assists—including a 38-point effort against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers—over the next four games.
Becoming a literal overnight sensation, there has been no shortage of nicknames for the new phenom, with “Linsanity,” “Super-Lintendo” and “Linception” among the most popular. When asked about the nicknames, Lin smiled and said, “I didn’t know that you could turn ‘Lin’ into so many things”.
His jersey sales shot through the roof, as he derailed Derrick Rose as the top selling NBA jersey in the United States. (Not bad for a guy who didn’t have a guaranteed contract (or his own apartment) a week-and-a-half ago.)
After defeating the Lakers 92-85 at Madison Square Garden, Lin led the Knicks to three more wins, including a nail-biter in Toronto. With less than two minutes to go in the game at the Air Canada Centre, the Raptors clung to an 87-82 lead. After a pair of defensive stops, the Knicks were able to tie the game at 87 with just over a minute left.
The score remained the same until New York’s last possession, where Jeremy Lin held the ball for the final shot. With five seconds to go, Lin pulled up for a game-winning three in front of Jose Calderon and nailed it with 0.5 seconds left in the game.
“If you look back at my story, it doesn’t matter where you look, but God’s fingerprints are all over the place,” said Lin after the game.
The next night, Jeremy Lin recorded a career high 13 assists in a win against the Sacramento Kings, while also registering his third career double-double. With the victory New York extended its winning streak to seven games, while improving their record to 15-15, marking the first time the team had a .500 record in over a month.
Although the Knicks suffered their first loss in the Jeremy Lin era Friday night against the New Orleans Hornets, it is difficult to imagine their winning ways won’t continue.
The biggest question now is how Lin’s game might be affected with the return of Carmelo Anthony, who has missed the last six games with a groin injury. Many fear the players’ differing styles might stunt the team''s offensive production.
With Jeremy Lin, the Knicks rely on pick-and-rolls, as well as ball movement in half-court sets. Carmelo Anthony, however, plays a lot of isolation and creates his own shot. Despite these concerns from fans and media, Anthony insists he and Lin will mesh seamlessly.
“When I come back I think I can take some of that pressure off of him to have to go out there and [perform] on a consistent basis,” said Anthony in an interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.
For the time being, New York will have to play the waiting game, as it anxiously wonders whether or not “Melo” and “Linsanity” can peacefully coexist in the Big Apple.
A native of Wellesley, Massachusetts, Aashish is a lifelong fan of the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics. He graduated Wellesley High School in 2008, and is currently a senior at the University at Buffalo in Amherst, New York. You can follow him on Twitter @aashish1989. Read more of his work at bostonsportsradio.net.