Keeping Score

Big-Apple Surprise: Linsanity Lights Up New York

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Nathaniel S. Butler / NBAE / Getty Images
Nathaniel S. Butler / NBAE / Getty Images

Jeremy Lin #17 of the New York Knicks goes to the basket during the game against the New Jersey Nets on February 4, 2012

The New York Knicks may have found the point guard they so desperately needed, from a source no one expected.

Jeremy Lin, who was playing in the NBA’s development league — the minors — just two weeks ago, scored 28 points in his first career start on Monday night. He also handed out eight assists in New York’s 99-88 victory over the Utah Jazz at Madison Square Garden. This was quite an encore: on Saturday night at the Garden, Lin lit up All-Star point guard Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets, scoring 25 points, and dishing out seven assists, during a 99-92 victory. On the day the New York Giants are marching down the Canyon of Heroes as Super Bowl champions, “Linsanity” is also sweeping the Big Apple.

Lin’s dominance is simply astounding. He was a fine college player at Harvard back in 2010, the subject of media fascination for a host of reasons: Harvard has not been a hotbed of college hoops, Lin was a rare Asian-American standout in a sport that has produced few of them, and his ethnicity was the source of immature taunting by knucklehead fans, and even one fellow player. But Harvard fizzled down the stretch, and Lin’s NBA ambitions seemed like a dream. His outside shot was underwhelming, his strength suspect. Lin might have a nice pro career — playing overseas.

(MORE: Harvard’s Hoops Star Is Asian. What’s Wrong With That?)

But a breakout performance in the 2010 NBA Summer League, in which the undrafted rookie free agent outplayed the top pick in that year’s draft, John Wall of the Washington Wizards, earned him a contract with the Golden State Warriors, his hometown team. (Lin’s parents are Taiwanese immigrants who settled in the Bay Area in the 1970s.) However, he largely rode the pine in Golden State, playing in just 29 games, and averaging 2.6 points per game. The Warriors assigned him to the development league on three different occasions. The Knicks signed Lin in late December, and despite the team’s clear need for a competent floor leader, he rarely saw the floor in New York. That is, until Saturday night.

Give Lin all the credit in the world. At the end of  his senior year at Harvard, no one would have bet that less than two years later, he’d score over 20 points in back-to-back NBA games. But it’s worth remembering he hasn’t faced the NBA’s elite competition. The Nets are NBA bottom-feeders, and Utah played a home game against the Los Angeles Lakers two nights before. They might have been a bit tired in New York on Monday night. But all Lin has done over the past few years, and especially these past few games, is prove people wrong. What a great NBA story he’ll be if he keeps it up.

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