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Jeremy Lin returns to Madison Square Garden Monday, without “Linsanity”

Dec 17, 2012, 11:54 AM EDT

Jeremy Lin AP

Jeremy Lin is back in the place it all came together for him.

But it’s not the same.

Monday night Jeremy Lin brings his new team the Houston Rockets into Madison Square Garden to take on the team where for a stretch he played stunningly good, exciting basketball that energized a sullen fan base. It was enough to win the hearts of many Knicks fans, it was enough to earn a three-year, $25 million contract offer from Houston that Knicks management did not want to match. Which pissed off a lot of Knicks fans.

But it was best for Lin the basketball player. We’ll get to that.

While fans and media want to reminisce about the weeks of “Linsanity” in New York and how that led to a contract with him leaving town, Lin and the Knicks players didn’t really want to go there. Lin told the Houston Chronicle he wanted some closure.

“If I were to be realistic, there will probably be a little bit of nostalgia or reminiscing and thankful for those times because those were great times,” Lin said. “At the same time, it’s the next chapter. I’m definitely ready to get it over with. I think in some sense there will be some closure. This will be the first return back to MSG, and there will never be another first return. We’re going to go out and play and have some fun.”

This may be the closure Lin wants, because Linsanity seems to be dying. If you want some evidence, notice that fans around the world did not have Lin voted among the starters to the NBA All-Star Game in the first ballot returns. He was third in guards in the West, behind Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul, but still ahead of guys he shouldn’t be like teammate James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker and O.J. Mayo.

In part the fascination with Lin is dying because the Knicks have been good this season, the top team in the East at 18-5. Plus new Knicks point guard Raymond Felton is playing pretty well. If the Knicks and Felton were struggling fans would be revisiting the Lin decision a lot more.

The other part is that Lin himself is struggling — he is scoring 10.8 points per game (down from 14.6 with the Knicks last season), he is shooting 39.5 percent this season (down from 44.6 percent), he is assisting on a lower percentage of his teammates baskets, his PER has dropped from a borderline All-Star level of 19.9 down to a below average 13.1.

Lin admitted he is struggling talking to the New York Post, following a 3-for-9 shooting performance in Toronto Sunday where Lin had seven points, two assists and three turnovers.

“Terrible. I think I’m not doing close to what I’m capable of doing and it’s a matter of figuring out how to get myself to play more like myself within the system with the change of scenery. I’ll be my harshest critic but I’ll go ahead and say it: I’m doing terrible.’’

His move out of New York was still the best thing for him.

While a perfect storm of events came together for Lin last season to spark Linsanity, he is still a guy that came into the season undrafted and having started 25 games in the NBA. He had a steep learning curve ahead of him — he has struggles to go left, he doesn’t have a great three point shot yet (31.5 percent this season), he is shooting just 30.4 percent from 10 feet out to the arc this season (last season 46.4 percent) making it easier to guard him, and he has to learn to work off the ball more with James Harden on his team.

It’s the kind of learning curve a lot of good 23 year olds with potential struggle with in the NBA.

But if Lin had to do this in New York right now his struggles would be all over the back page of the New York Post, fighting for headlines of futility with the Jets. It would be much harder for him to develop under that microscope, with all that that attention and demands on his time.

In Houston, he can pretty much walk up to the arena unbothered. He’s a star and one of the faces of the franchise, but the intensity of attention is different. As is the pressure to win now — the Rockets are rebuilding, there is no rebuilding in New York. (Well, there had to be after Isiah Thomas, but that’s another story.)

He needs a season to play and struggle and figure it out. And he will. He may never again play for an extended period like those weeks of Linsanity, but he can be a good NBA point guard. It just takes time, and in Houston he will get it in a way he couldn’t in New York.

  1. gatordontplay - Dec 17, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    wish he would go back to new york and get out of Houston

    • lawful1 - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:36 PM

      if it wasn’t for jeremy lin and James harden nobody would be paying attention to houston right now. So you get out of your own way!

    • fanofevilempire - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:48 PM

      that’s ok buddy, we have Felton now, we missed him and we got Kidd too.

  2. badintent - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    Kurt, Felton is playing pretty good ?? How about flat out balling !!.He’s a huge part of the Knicks success.No one expected him to play this good this year.He’ll never be Rondo or Wade but he’s making everyone around him so much better with his passing and running the offense. I like Lin, but he should watch Felton’s tape from the last 2 weeks.

  3. dysraw1 - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    well since the new uniforms say once a Knick always a Knick, i will pay homage to mr.Jeremy Linn for the last time, last season i was miserable i was consistently calling for Dick D’antoni’s head on a platter. then he made a desperation move an inserted this young asian pointman. id seen JLinn in summer league and my mind said hes kinda nice,but he ain’t gonna make it..but in his first starting game against the NJ. Nets. this kidd came out rolling to the basket like he was Earl the pearl Monroe, he carried the team for ten games, an was intrigual to our entering the playoffs. so thank you J Linn as a humble fan you picked me up at a time when i was very down.

  4. fanofevilempire - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:51 PM

    I loved having Lin last year, he energized the city. Linsanity was everywhere!
    I was happy he got a nice contract and a shot at playing.
    I wish him well.
    I hope he can have a good career, he plays hard and works hard.

    Go Knicks!!

  5. blue18hutthutt - Dec 17, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    Hoping he has a strong individual performance but Knicks win

    Only classless racists like the Screamin A Racist or Rob Parkers of the world would actively promote booing this hardworking kid

    Felton’s playing better and is a better fit for the Knicks, but I’m thankful for that magical run Lin put us on last year

  6. cantonbound13 - Dec 17, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    Being good in NY, on the big stage, brings more fame & fortune than being great elsewhere. Just ask LeBron.

    • fanofevilempire - Dec 17, 2012 at 4:55 PM

      the truth is LeBron had a heavy load in Cleveland, he took a chance and teamed up with
      two other players.
      why do you think Boston and Laker have won 33 championships, they get a lot of good players on a team and they win.
      look at Dallas, they tore the team down, now they suck.

      • jimeejohnson - Dec 17, 2012 at 8:50 PM

        He went from Cleveland to Miami. Rust Belt to Sun Belt. He’s not the first. Could he end up in NY or Brooklyn? Hey: you never know.

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