NEW YORK, MARCH 16 - By Larry Fine
It may be the end of "Linsanity" as we have known it but Jeremy Lin was alive and well at Madison Square Garden on Friday as the New York Knicks made it two easy wins in a row under new coach Mike Woodson.
The back page of the New York Post had the catchphrase written on a tombstone to mark the end of the free-wheeling offense Lin ran during an inspired streak under former coach Mike D'Antoni that made the Asian-American a global sensation.
Reports of his passing into oblivion, however, were greatly exaggerated as Lin scored 13 points, had five assists and three turnovers in New York's 115-100 victory over the Indiana Pacers, who arrived in the Big Apple with a 25-16 record.
The win put the Knicks (20-24) temporarily into the eighth and last Eastern Conference playoff berth, with the Milwaukee Bucks (19-24) playing later, and came on the back of a 42-point victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.
"Our energy and effort is a lot higher," Lin said after beating the Pacers. "Defensively, we are playing harder, we are playing together."
Harvard graduate Lin must continue to show his much admired resiliency if he is to carry on the love affair with New York fans into next season and beyond.
Lin rose from obscurity to lead the moribund Knicks on a seven-game winning streak last month with a rash of 20-point games when given a chance to run the point guard-dominated offense favored by D'Antoni.
He has now been consigned to a lower profile role after the coach resigned on Wednesday with the team mired in a six-game losing streak.
The Knicks had floundered after the return of high-scoring Carmelo Anthony to D'Antoni's Lin-led attack and were going to rely more on established scorers Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, declared Woodson.
"When I've got to get a big shot, I'm going to go to Melo and Amar'e, and guys that have done it," Woodson told reporters after his first formal practice with the team on Thursday.
Lin said he was consciously trying to get the ball to Anthony and Stoudemire. "Especially out of the gate, trying to get them going," he said. "I'm picking my spots."
The Knick burst out to a 24-14 lead in the first quarter and led by as many as 32 in the one-sided win over the Pacers, in which center Tyson Chandler and back-up guard J.R. Smith shared New York scoring honours with 16 points.
"We are playing with more urgency now and that is important," Woodson said.
Lin is being asked to master a more deferential style on court, and he played under greater control on Friday while still showing flashes of the creative playmaker that captivated the fans for a euphoric few weeks in February.
If he fails to adapt, Lin's breakout campaign with the Knicks could be his last in New York.
Given what he has shown as the key man in a motion offense and his commercial appeal that has seen his No. 17 jersey fly off shelves at the Garden, Lin should expect a sizeable increase from his minimum wage contract.
Yet the Knicks may not be willing to use their $5 million mid-level exception budget on Lin in a more diminished role and he may be left to ply his trade elsewhere.
If not valued by the Knicks, he may find a new welcoming home should mentor D'Antoni land another team to coach.
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