In just one week, point guard Jeremy Lin went from the end of the Knicks bench to the main event at Madison Square Garden.
After the final buzzer sounded in the Knicks' game against the Los Angeles Lakers, the MSG crowd broke out an “MVP” chant. This time, the reaction wasn’t for Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant. Instead, it was the perfect ending to Jeremy Lin’s dream week.
"I feel like I'm in a dream right now," Lin said after his career high 38 points and 7 assists led the short-handed Knicks to victory over the Lakers. That performance was the high point for the Harvard graduate during a stellar debut week.
The Knicks season seemed to be in turmoil with leading scorer Carmelo Anthony going down with a strained right groin in the midst of a losing stretch. Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni had to try something different after forward Amare Stoudemire took a leave of absence due to a family emergency. Then, Lin -- who was cut by two different teams in the preseason -- comes in.
Lin led the Knicks to a 4-0 record, averaging 27.3 points and eight assists, becoming the first player in NBA history to rack up at least 20 points and seven assists in each of his first four starts. Geared by national media coverage and social networking, “Linsanity” captivated the basketball world.
"I don't know what to tell you," Mike D'Antoni said. "I have never seen this. It is not often that a guy is going to play four games, the best you are going to see, and nobody knows who he is. That is hard to do."
Can Lin continue this high level of play at a consistent rate throughout this season? It depends on his ability to respond once defenses adapt to his style. Defenses will no longer be surprised by Lin’s savvy point guard play and will limit his strengths. Lin has established himself as a smart pick-and-roll player and team facilitator.
The next stage of Lin’s progress centers on his ability to coexist with returning superstar Carmelo Anthony. There is little doubt on whether he can play with Stoudemire because the forward had a flourishing career playing alongside a similar type of pick-and-roll point-guard in Steve Nash. Carmelo, on the other hand, has a league-wide reputation of being a ball-stopper on offense.
Despite his reputation, Anthony insists playing alongside Lin will be a great opportunity for both players.
"I know there's questions about, 'Can I fit in?' and stuff like that, but this is like a dream come true to me," Anthony said. "It takes some pressure off of me. I don't have to play point guard.”
Jeremy Lin’s outbreak seems to be more than just a media-centered one-week sensation. The undrafted second-year point guard has revived the Knicks' hopes after they initially squandered their preseason hype.