Knicks ready to face former teammate Jeremy Lin
HOUSTON -- Jeremy Lin's magical, memorable run last season led to more attention and money than anyone could have imagined, and may have caused some resentment among his old Knicks teammates. Even some who didn't play with him have grown tired of hearing about Lin.
Raymond Felton, who replaced Lin after the Knicks opted not to match the Rockets' three-year, $25.1-million offer, thinks it's ridiculous to compare the two of them. But that point-guard matchup will be front and center Friday night when the Knicks play the Rockets.
"I've been in this league eight years," Felton said. "He's been in this league half of a year, coming into a year now. I definitely can't see how nobody can compare me and him together. I've been in this league way longer, got much more of a body of work."
Everyone involved says this is just another game that each team needs to win, but there will be emotions on both sides. The Knicks probably will be fired up to prove they're better off without Lin.
Not matching Lin's pact, which included a $14.9-million poison pill in Year 3, looks smart now. The Knicks are 8-2 with Felton running the point, and he is averaging 15.7 points, 6.9 assists and 2.3 turnovers per game and shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 42.2 percent from three-point range.
Meanwhile, Lin is struggling. He's averaging 10.0 points, 6.3 assists and 2.8 turnovers and is shooting only 33.3 percent from the field and 22.9 percent from three-point range. Lin was 2-for-9 with four points, three assists and five turnovers Wednesday, which led to former Knick Toney Douglas playing crunch-time minutes.
"I've been exposed a lot early in this season and I have a lot to work on," Lin said Thursday. "I'm young. I've probably started 30-something games in my entire career. That's what I have to keep in mind."
The Knicks were willing to let Lin, 24, grow with them after he averaged 18.2 points and 7.7 assists in 25 starts last season. They planned to match Houston's original guaranteed three-year, $19.5-million offer sheet. But when the contract changed, the Knicks made the sign-and-trade for Felton and some Knicks players voiced some incendiary opinions.
J.R. Smith said Lin's contract could cause problems in the locker room because more established players were making less. Carmelo Anthony called the contract "ridiculous" at the time, and he said Wednesday he doesn't regret saying it.
"It was taken out of context," Anthony said. "When I said ridiculous, it was the way that they set the contract up, set the money up and put us in the messed-up situation to try to match it. They did their job in free agency, we did our job."
Lin said none of that bothers him. "I guess I don't really have any comment," he said. "I'm fine with anything anybody says."
As far as whether he believes there was any resentment last season, Lin said he "didn't sense that in terms of to my face, but I'm not sure how they felt."
Smith gave a curious answer when asked about Friday night. "It's just another game," he said. "Personal goals, personal issues, whatever we got against Jeremy or whoever else has it against him got to let that go and make sure we get a 'W' first."
Smith said there is no resentment from him, and added that he doesn't know of any Knicks with personal issues with Lin.
One of the biggest storylines through all of the Linsanity was how Anthony and Lin would work together. Anthony, a perennial All-Star, clearly grew frustrated with questions and criticisms about how he fit with the unproven Lin. But they had dinner together with Mike Woodson before free agency, and Lin felt as if they eventually would click.
"I think, yeah, throughout time," Lin said. "It's tough to say, but he really wanted to make it work, I felt. He was trying to do everything to find a balance to both the different styles."