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Jeremy Lin tests newfound fame vs. Lakers

New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin shoots

New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin shoots baskets before the start of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards. (Feb. 8, 2012) Credit: AP

Jeremy Lin was a Baron Davis elbow infection away from being waived and becoming a 10-day contract player.

Had Davis not had a setback in his rehab from a herniated disc and made his Knicks debut at the end of January, when coach Mike D'Antoni hoped, Lin wouldn't have been in the starting lineup for Friday night's game against the Lakers and would have remained relatively unknown.

"The natural progression is we're not searching so hard for something back there and he wouldn't have gotten a chance," D'Antoni said at the Knicks' morning shootaround.

The Knicks were looking at Davis to be their savior, but not in this way. They probably still envision Davis joining them and being a difference-maker at some point, but right now it's all Lin.

Entering Friday night's game, the undrafted point guard from Harvard had led the Knicks to three straight wins, averaging 25.3 points and 8.3 assists in those games. Lin somewhat overshadowed Kobe Bryant in his only regular-season appearance at the Garden, and he's added even more attention to one of the most high-profile teams in sports.

The amount of media at the Knicks' shootaround was similar to a playoff game -- and stars Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire weren't even there. At least six television crews were in Greenburgh, including CNN and some Asian networks. Lin, the first American-born Chinese player in the NBA, admitted to being a little overwhelmed.

"Things are changing so much and it's like everyone wants to talk to me or my family," Lin said. "We're very low-key people and private people and so sometimes it's a little tough."

Lin is handling this newfound fame exceedingly well.

The second-year guard is very poised on the court, in the locker room and amid all the attention. Lin continues to defer the credit and wisely said he's not overshadowing Bryant.

But Lin has the Knicks playing better than they have all season and showing more teamwork and continuity. Although it's just three games, D'Antoni said Lin deserves all the hype he's receiving.

"It only took Rudy half a game," he said. "Not even half a game, two plays at the end, and they made a movie about him.

"He has proven that he has the ability to do this again. Not many guys in the world can do it one time. He's done it three times. So you got to think he's legit. He'll play. At what level we'll find out."

Lin's appeal is even more far-reaching. Tyson Chandler was at a fashion show Thursday night and said he was asked about Lin. "I love it," Chandler said. "I'm glad that it's happened to him. In all honesty, it couldn't happen to a better guy because he's maybe one of the few guys that can handle this.

"His mentality hasn't changed. He's the same guy that was coming here early, fighting for a 10-day contract, with all the praise that he's been getting in Madison Square Garden. He's the right guy for it to happen to because it's not doing anything to him. We're still playing Monopoly on the plane. I'm still beating him, too. That he's not winning at."

Lin, who played for the Warriors last season, was cut by Golden State and Houston in December before the Knicks picked him up.

D'Antoni didn't turn to Lin until he found out whether rookie Iman Shumpert, Toney Douglas or veteran Mike Bibby could run the team and lead them to victories. They couldn't. With the Knicks struggling to score, losing 11 of 13 games and without Davis indefinitely because of the infection and his back injury, he turned to Lin.

"He got his opportunity, which came fairly quickly, and he got lucky because we were playing so bad," D'Antoni said. "You have to have luck in this league, and we got a bunch of luck. It worked out for us, and the end result of it is we're lucky."

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