On Feb. 4, 2012, Jeremy Lin, at the time a third-string point guard for the Knicks, came off the bench to score 25 points to help beat the New Jersey Nets at Madison Square Garden. That was the beginning of the phenomenon that came to be known as Linsanity, a crazy time where Lin, the undrafted Harvard product who was sleeping on his brother’s couch, became for three weeks or so the most exciting player in the entire NBA.
Four years later, Lin is no longer a phenomenon — just a really nice third guard for the Charlotte Hornets, who beat the Nets, 105-100, Tuesday night in Barclays Center. Lin had 21 points and four assists and Nicolas Batum had 23 points as the Hornets won for the 11th time in 13 games. Brook Lopez, returning to the lineup after missing Saturday’s loss in Detroit with a virus, led the Nets with 29 points, while Sean Kilpatrick had 25 and Bojan Bogdanovic had 20. Brooklyn (19-51) lost for the ninth time in 11 games.
Lin hasn’t been able to recreate the magic he once had since leaving the Knicks in 2012 to sign as a free agent with Houston. But this year, he is enjoying a solid campaign for the 41-30 Hornets, averaging 11.7 points per game off the bench entering Tuesday. On Monday, he had 29 — including 15 in the fourth quarter — to help lead the Hornets’ stunning 91-88 comeback victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
“I don’t really want to draw too many comparisons to back then,’’ Lin said of his breakout season. “I feel like I’m different now, the situation’s different. But I do feel like I’m getting comfortable right now.’’
Having signed a two-year, $4.3 million contract with the Hornets last summer, Lin has a player option worth $2.1 million for next season and as it happens, both the Nets and Knicks will be in the market for a veteran point guard in free agency this summer.
“I’m having a lot of fun here where I’m at,’’ Lin said. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. This could be a special season and I just don’t want to let free agency or whatever, any of these type of questions affect my focus for this season. And so, I haven’t spoken about it to people; I’m not thinking about it, and I just want to ride this one out, you know? This is a special season for me.’’
Notes & quotes: Before the game, the Nets held a moment of silence and displayed the national flag of Belgium on the video board in honor of those killed in the terrorist attacks in Belgium Tuesday . . . The Long Island Nets, the Nets’ D-League affiliate which will play in renovated Nassau Coliseum beginning in 2017-18, will hold a news conference at Barclays Center Thursday before the Nets’ game against the Cleveland Cavaliers to reveal their logo and display the team’s uniforms . . . Rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who missed 50 games following ankle surgery, played for the first time since he fractured his right ankle in practice Dec. 5. He played 15 minutes and scored five points, with three rebounds and two assists.