Lin-sanity is ... what's right with sports

New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin makes a pass against the Toronto Raptors during the first half of...

New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin makes a pass against the Toronto Raptors during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Toronto Feb. 14, 2012. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:21 PM ET

How crazy is Linsanity?

So crazy that basketball beat guys out of New York City are getting scrummed by the media these days — as New York Daily News writer Frank Isola was Tuesday morning following a press conference at the ACC with the Knicks’ point guard Jeremy Lin.

“This guy has taken over the city like few others ever have,” said Isola, who found it somewhat amusing to be on the other side of the microphone for a change.

It’s rare when the media wants to interview the media. It’s only happened to yours truly a couple of times, once when Ben Johnson made his Olympic Games comeback in Barcelona (an Indian reporter told me that Big Ben was “beloved” in India and would be welcomed there as a resident. I told the dude I’d pass the message on to Ben), and another time after I told a press conference coordinator at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics that “I am standing.”

In any event, what’s happening with Lin, as Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni said Tuesday, is “off the charts.”

“Here’s what’s right with sports,” said D’Antoni. “He’s an underdog who came up the right way. The biggest point — stepping out on national TV with all the scrutiny, Madison Square Garden, against the Lakers, against Kobe (Bryant), and produce what he did. To me, that’s remarkable, that’s unbelievable. Now we’ll see the rest of the season. We’ve got a long ways to go. But up to this point, that’s off the charts. I don’t know if anyone could script that one.”

D’Antoni hit the nail on the head. There’s a huge way to go before Lin proves that he’s not a one-hit, or a five-game, wonder, though they’re the most magical five games in recent sport history.

It’s a great story. The son of Taiwanese immigrants, growing up in Palo Alto, Calif., and receiving nary an athletic scholarship out of high school. Lin went to Harvard, one of only two places that guaranteed him a spot on their team, and wasn’t drafted out of college, though he signed a partially guaranteed deal with his hometown Golden State Warriors. The Warriors waived him at training camp in December, 2011 and he was picked up by the Houston Rockets, who also waived him, before he was picked up by the Knicks on Dec.27 to be their third-string point guard. On Jan. 17, he was sent to the Erie BayHawks of the D-League before being recalled. And then on Feb. 4, in a game against the New Jersey Nets, his magnificent roll began. Against Jersey, he recorded 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds, all career highs. Since then, and including that game, the Knicks have won five straight (prior to Tuesday’s Raptors game) and Lin has put up big numbers, both on the board and in the Q ratings. He’s the toast of the Big Apple (click on the Knicks website and the first thing you see is a number to get a Linsanity phone app), and throughout the basketball world.

It’s a whirlwind like never before. But the question is — is Lin the real deal? And is he still going to be able to maintain his play after the team’s two injured superstars, Amar’e Stoudemire, who was expected to start against the Raptors, and Carmelo Anthony, return full-time?

“Oh, he’s the real deal,” said D’Antoni. “(But), the real deal meaning what? He’s an NBA player, whether he’s the level of these other guys, we’ll see. He’s just started. But can he play in the NBA? Yeah, of course, he’s got all the tools. That’s not a fluke how he’s playing.”

The only downside to Lin’s game has been his turnovers, averaging over five in his last four games.

“This is a great opportunity and I don’t think he’ll blow it,” said the coach. “He’s too smart. You’re dealing with a very intelligent kid.”

The big concern is the hype. It will die down eventually, though everywhere Lin goes now, there are huge scrums, and because of his background — the first American player in the NBA of Chinese or Taiwanese descent, and a rare Harvard man in the league — he has attracted legions of new fans to the game. Lin, who hopes to become a pastor, called his new-found success “a miracle from God.”

“If you look back at my story, it doesn’t matter where you look, God’s fingerprints are all over the place,” he said.

Unfortunately, not all the attention has been positive. Like Tim Tebow, already there’s a backlash against Lin for the notoriety he’s receiving. (Boxing star Floyd Mayweather tweeted: “Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.”) But Lin said he’s able to block out the hype, both positive or not, and concentrate on the game he loves.

“I try to not pay attention to it (and) try to spend a lot of time with my family and friends during my free time,” he said. “And then when I’m on with the team, we stay focused and we know what we have to do. And then just staying in my Bible basically.”

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

twitter @beezersun


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