Jeremy Lin has a lot of fond memories at New York’s Madison Square Time. It was in New York where “Linsanity” was born and Lin became the biggest story of the strike-shortened 2011-12 season.
Lin parlayed his overnight success into a three-year, $25-million contract with the Houston Rockets. The Knicks didn’t feel like Lin deserved that much money, so the team didn’t match the Rockets’ offer sheet. Even though Lin says he has no ill feelings toward the Knicks, there had to be a small part of him that was burning inside for basically being dumped.
In his return to Broadway, Lin torched the Knicks for 22 points and eight assists, but more importantly he led the Rockets to a 109-96 win. The win was somewhat watered down because New York didn’t have Carmelo Anthony, who is nursing a sprained ankle, but it was a good win nonetheless for Lin and Rockets.
Lin was in attack mode from the start, scoring the first basket of the game with a backdoor cut that beat Raymond Felton. “I was trying to get in the paint and put pressure,” said Lin, who has had his share of struggles this season in Houston, but seems to be turning the corner — literally.
Lin repeated beat the Knicks’ defense with quick drives to the basket off pick-and-rolls, something he excelled at during his incredible run with the Knicks. He even went to left on a few occasions, something he couldn’t do consistently last year.
Cheered then jeered, and later floored by Tyson Chandler’s flagrant foul, Lin added another masterpiece to the ones he put together last season during the height of his memorable run. No longer the fan favorite he was when wearing the home uniform, Lin got a mixed reception when he left the game with 2:25 remaining and the Rockets leading by 16.
”It was a lot of fun playing out there and I think our team, we took a step in the right direction,” Lin told the Associated Press. ”And for me, it was great to be back and it was a lot of fun to play on that court again.”
James Harden had 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets, who blew out the Knicks for the second time this season. They have won the last seven meetings, including a 131-103 rout in Houston on Nov. 23.
The Knicks decided not to match Houston’s contract offer to Lin, and nobody could argue when Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni led the Knicks to the best record in the Eastern Conference with a team that led the NBA in fewest turnovers.
But Lin was the best point guard on the floor, just as he so often was during his dazzling run last winter, when the NBA’s first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent went from undrafted benchwarmer to the biggest story in basketball.
”He had a good game, without a doubt,” Felton said. ”I never talked junk about Jeremy Lin. Anything I said about Jeremy, I felt like he deserved anything. He deserved everything he got. He had a good game. Plain and simple.”
Lin saw some fans wearing his old jersey, but said he didn’t let his mind drift back to last season during the game. ”I’ve moved on, they’ve moved on,” he said. ”We have good memories, but at the same time we’re all in a different place now.”
Lin doubled his scoring average in what he called an up-and-down season so far.
”I hope this is the start of a nice run for him, because he works really hard,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. ”He’s a great kid. He deserves it.”