Jeremy Lin has been cheered before, but hearing his name chanted or "M-V-P!" is beyond the Knicks' new starting point guard's wildest dreams. The way Lin has played, some of those chants might be coming from his own bench.
The Knicks have gotten caught up in the Lin-sanity. You see it on their faces and in the extra bounce in their step. You see it in the way they acknowledge Lin after a great pass and chest-bump him after one of his spectacular plays causes the opposition to call timeout.
You also see it in the results.
Lin's sample size is only three games, but the unassuming, unheralded and undrafted former Harvard point guard has led the Knicks to three wins. They go for their fourth straight Friday night against the Lakers at the Garden. The question remains whether Lin can keep it up, but the Knicks believe they have the answer.
"I think it's real," Mike D'Antoni said after Wednesday night's win. "The things that are for real is his vision, which won't change, his speed, which won't change, his knowledge of the game, which won't change. I think he can only get better."
Lin has made the Knicks whole. He's been the point guard they've needed to run D'Antoni's system. Even without Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, who will be unavailable again Friday night, the Knicks have been playing like a team.
Lin, the NBA's first Chinese-American, is making everyone look better. He reads the defense and creates open shots for teammates. Lin also gets inside and can finish.
"What he brings to this team is invaluable," Tyson Chandler said. "The spacing on the floor, the ball movement -- he really puts everybody back in their natural position. He has a huge impact because he has everybody feeling confident again."
Asked what Lin has done for the Knicks, Jared Jeffries said, "Everything."
Lin, who was cut by the Warriors and Rockets in December, went from being the Knicks' fourth point guard to their savior, if not the coach's. D'Antoni was feeling the heat after the Knicks dropped 11 of 13 games, and he turned to Lin Saturday against the Nets. The second-year guard came off the bench and had 25 points and seven assists. Then Lin started the Knicks' victories over Utah (28 points, eight assists) and Washington (23 points, 10 assists).
He became the first NBA player since LeBron James in 2003-04 with at least 20 points and eight assists in each of his first two starts. Now everyone is looking to compare Lin to someone. D'Antoni stopped short of saying the S-word: Steve Nash.
"That's pretty easy -- [but] I'm not going to go there," he said. "He plays the game at a high level mentally and we'll try to keep it there and improve. He's just starting his journey."
Lin also may have restored some faith in D'Antoni's system, which is predicated on the pick-and-roll. Lin runs it better than anyone else on the Knicks, which is why he's not likely to lose his spot anytime soon.
The timing couldn't have been better for the Knicks or Lin. Last week he was on the likely-to-be-waived list. On Friday, his contract becomes guaranteed for the season. "He was probably an inch away from being let go at some point," Chandler said. "It's a good thing it didn't happen."
"We're not shocked, but he's exceeded expectations of a lot of people," Warriors general manager Larry Riley said. "But I did think he could play in the NBA.
"He's the kind of kid you'd like to see have some success. He seems to be growing all the time. The question is how much more is he going to grow, and I can't tell you that."
Lin's local, national and international popularity is growing. The NBA said its Asian TV partners have added Knicks games to their schedule. The Knicks' average Nielsen household rating on MSG Network jumped 36 percent since Lin became a starter.
After Lin's first career double-double Wednesday, Nash tweeted, "If you love sports you have to love what Jeremy Lin is doing. Getting an opportunity and exploding!!" Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted, "We should have kept @JLin7.Did not know he was this good. Anyone who says they knew misleading U."
The Warriors cut Lin to clear money to offer DeAndre Jordan a contract. When the Clippers matched it, it was too late to get Lin back. Like Morey, Riley is kicking himself. Meanwhile, the Knicks are excited.
"We'll see how many nights he can do it," D'Antoni said. "If you do it a lot of times, you're really good. If you do it sometimes, you're pretty good. I think he can do it."
Amar'e not a Star.
For the first time in six years, Amar'e Stoudemire wasn't named an NBA All-Star. The East reserves, announced Thursday night, are Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, Andre Iguodala, Luol Deng and Roy Hibbert. Stoudemire, voted a starter last season, is averaging 18.2 points and 8.1 rebounds and shooting 44.7 percent. Chandler (12.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, 69.7 percent shooting) also didn't make it. Anthony was voted a starter.