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SportsColumnistsAl Iannazzone

Jeremy Lin story put Knicks on successful run

Jeremy Lin #7 of the Houston Rockets gestures

Jeremy Lin #7 of the Houston Rockets gestures to his teammates as they play against the Knicks. (Dec. 17, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

The improbable Jeremy Lin story began the Saturday night before last year's Super Bowl, starting something magical for him, as well as a chain reaction of events that have led to what the Knicks hope is a banner season.

They were 8-15 and floundering when coach Mike D'Antoni -- looking for something, anything -- inserted Lin against the Nets last Feb. 4. Twenty-five points and seven assists later, Linsanity was born.

Now it's a distant memory.

D'Antoni is dealing with another underperforming team in Los Angeles, hoping to find the next Lin on the Lakers' star-studded roster. Lin is struggling to re-create anything he did last season or prove he's worth the $25.1 million the Rockets are paying him.

The Knicks, meanwhile, are leading the Atlantic Division, being challenged daily by Mike Woodson, and Carmelo Anthony is the unquestioned star and leader of the team.

The Knicks eventually might have gotten to that point, anyway, but it likely wasn't happening while D'Antoni was the coach and Lin had the ball.

D'Antoni was committed to playing his system, especially after Lin proved he could lead it last season. But Anthony became less involved, less effective and more unhappy.

Each passing day and game, the tension in the locker room and on the court grew. Finally, a change was made. D'Antoni was out as coach on March 14. That was the beginning of the end of Linsanity and the beginning of the Knicks you see now.

Woodson became the coach, and his no-nonsense approach of holding players more accountable and demanding that they play defense changed the way the Knicks and Anthony played.

Woodson put the ball back in Anthony's hands and ran the offense through him. But Woodson also required that he defend and rebound, and their partnership blossomed. Now Anthony is being serenaded regularly with chants of "M-V-P" at the Garden.

It's hard to predict whether this would have played out the same way had the Knicks kept Lin, as they planned to do before Houston changed the offer for the restricted free agent. Lin played only seven games under Woodson before injuring his left knee.

But if Lin had been brought back, there probably would have been some sort of controversy if he wasn't living up to last season's standards or wasn't playing in the fourth quarter -- or about his and Anthony's relationship.

It's no secret that Woodson favors veterans, particularly with the Knicks in a win-now mode.

They have assembled the NBA's oldest roster, including three point guards who are more proven than Lin -- Raymond Felton, 28, Jason Kidd, 39, and Pablo Prigioni, 35.

There is no debating whose team it is or where the ball is going in a close game, and all egos have been checked. Amar'e Stoudemire is a reserve for the first time in his career and is embracing his new role.

The Knicks still have defensive flaws and can become too predictable on offense, but they're markedly better than when Lin exploded on the scene last Super Bowl weekend.

His Knicks career seemed to last a New York minute, but Lin's legacy might end up being that the start of his meteoric rise ultimately changed the direction of the Knicks -- and at least for now, it appears for the better.


Inside Carmelo's numbers

Carmelo Anthony broke Richie Guerin's 51-year-old Knicks single-season record when he scored at least 20 points for the 30th consecutive game Wednesday against Orlando.

During that streak, Anthony averaged 30.2 points and led the Knicks to a 19-11 record. He scored at least 40 points four times and at least 30 on 13 occasions and was the Knicks' leading scorer 28 times. Anthony shot 45.6 percent overall, 43.0 percent from three-point range.

It should be noted that when Guerin played, the NBA didn't have a three-point shot.

Evans scorched

What was Reggie Evans thinking giving LeBron James and the Miami Heat extra motivation before the champs played their first game in Brooklyn?

Evans dismissed the Heat's championship by saying, "That's a lockout season." Evans also made this remarkable statement: "If our team has to defend one person, LeBron isn't going to score nothing. LeBron is no different from Joe Johnson or Andray Blatche."

Of course, James and his team got up for a game that the Heat eventually won by 20.

Before the game, James tweeted: "Just keep throwing rocks at the throne, don't matter cause nothing can break my zone.'' After the game, while talking to reporters, James, looked down at the boxscore and said about Evans: "Let me look at his numbers real quick. He had no offensive rebounds, so we did our number on him."


Rudy Gay was the first big-name player to be traded. Who's next? Pau Gasol, Josh Smith, Paul Pierce and Paul Millsap could be moved by the Feb. 21 trade deadline.

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