Linsanity returns to the Garden

Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin drives upcourt past

Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin drives upcourt past Tyson Chandler at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. (Nov. 23, 2012) (Credit: Getty)

Jeremy Lin authored one of the most unforgettable and improbable performances for two weeks last February. He dominated the headlines and had the Garden rocking.

As Lin returns Monday night, his old team has been dominating the NBA, and the Garden has become louder.

When the Knicks chose to not match Houston's three-year, $25.1- million offer for Lin, many fans were outraged. But the Knicks have moved on and are out to prove they have created something more sustainable than Linsanity.

"He came in and what he did was amazing," said Lin's successor, Raymond Felton. "I was watching every game. He hit game-winners, he was doing all that. He was amazing. But it's time to move on. We're 18-5, whatever the record is, we're 10-0 at home. There's no need to talk about that no more."

Felton is accurate. The Knicks own the NBA's second-best record behind the defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder. Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni have formed a strong point guard trio that has everyone's respect.

There remain questions as to whether this veteran group led by Carmelo Anthony, who is questionable with a sprained left ankle, would have followed the still-developing Lin's lead and if the Knicks would be as good under Lin as they have been this season.

Lin, 24, is averaging 10.8 points and 6.0 assists and shooting 39.5 percent. He described his play coming into this game as "terrible." But he's looking forward to Monday night and putting the past behind him. "I'm definitely ready to get it over just because I think in some sense, there will be some closure," Lin told reporters after the Rockets lost to the Raptors, 103-96, in Toronto Sunday.

"There probably would be a little bit of nostalgia and reminiscing and thankful for those times because those were some great times. But at the same time, it's the next chapter."

There is no questioning what Lin meant to the Knicks last season. They might not have made the playoffs without his breakout performance.

Lin came off the bench Feb. 4 and had 25 points and seven assists against the Nets to kick-start Linsanity and a seven-game winning streak. The twice-cut undrafted point guard from Harvard averaged 24.4 points and 9.1 assists in those games.

He earned international acclaim, was cited by President Barack Obama and quickly became one of the most popular Knicks ever. "I think there will be a movie about it one day," said Lin's friend, Steve Novak.

But Lin is struggling to regain the form he showed during that dizzying February stretch. He had seven points and two assists Sunday in Toronto. He has reached the 20-point mark only twice and has two double-doubles. Lin had nine games of at least 20 points and five double-doubles in the last 13 games of February. "I'm not doing close to what I'm capable of doing," he said.

Lin played well against the Knicks on Nov. 26 in Houston. He had 13 points and seven rebounds in the Rockets' 131-103 rout. But James Harden and Chandler Parsons did most of the damage that game, totaling 64 points.

The Knicks will look to avenge their worst game of the season and maintain their perfect home record, but some of them would like to see Lin get his due from the crowd. "There's going to be some people who come to see Jeremy," Novak said. "He did have an incredible run and touched a lot of lives. A lot of little kids got Lin jerseys and stuff like that. I think it was tough when he left for all those people who had those jerseys, but they remember how much fun it was when he was here."

Said Felton: "They should give him a standing ovation when he comes back here, without a doubt."

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