We barely had time to take in, process and enjoy the New York Giants' unlikely and magical ride to the Super Bowl, as they won their second title in the last five seasons, before we were all swept off our feet by Jeremy Lin. After leading the New York Knicks to a handful of victories against some not-so-great teams, Lin's first true test came on Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers. And then he and the Knicks had a back-to-back the following night. The return of Amar'e Stoudemire in Toronto was another monkey wrench thrown into the mix. With another back-to-back on Wednesday when they faced the Sacramento Kings. But the result was four more wins, with three coming in exhilarating fashion, and one easy blowout to end the week. Besides unexpectedly transforming the Knicks into a winning team, Lin's caused a frenzy around the nation, won the Eastern Conference Player of the Week and is featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. But he's been nothing but humble, quick to credit his teammates and just as quick to point out his own shortcomings. The last two weeks have been almost all Jeremy Lin all the time, and I could just type his name 500 times with no other words and that would easily sum up the week in New York sports, but there were some other local news and games played around the area. This week, we'll take things in chronological order -- but of course we'll start with the man of the hour.
A Jeremy Lin Frenzy Friday: The Knicks defeated the New Jersey Nets, Utah Jazz and Washington Wizards during the Lin Era, but could he do it against the Lakers was the question everyone wanted answered. And would Kobe Bryant allow it? The answers to both questions were a resounding "Yes." On Friday night, Madison Square Garden turned into Woodstock or Live Aid or the Super Bowl or whatever Stock or Aid or Bowl you choose, as Linsanity was at the peak of its insanity with Kobe and the Lakers in town. Lin poured in an are-you-kidding-me 38 points and added seven assists in the 92-85 win. He didn't go head-to-head with Bryant, as it was Landry Fields who did an excellent job of covering the Laker star, holding him to a shaky 34 points on 11-for-29 shooting. But it was Lin's performance that stole the show. In the other game on Friday, the Nets were trounced by the Detroit Pistons, 109-92. There was no frenzy or mania in that one, just another loss for injury-riddled New Jersey.
A Hall of Fame-, Rivalry- and Revenge-Filled Saturday Afternoon: The Philadelphia Flyers tried to intimidate the New York Rangers as usual on Saturday, but the Broad Street Bullies are beginning to learn that the Blueshirts are tougher than they are these days. After two fights, six misconducts and 110 penalty minutes, it was the Rangers who came out on top, 5-2, winning their seventh consecutive game against the Flyers, dating back to last season. Hitting, fighting, blocking shots and playing a physical game is how the Rangers do it every night, so there's no backing down for this edition of the team. The best news of the day for the Blueshirts was the three power-play goals they scored, with Ryan Callahan leading the offense with a hat trick. Over on Long Island, the New York Islanders continued their 40th anniversary celebration by inducting Kenny Jonsson into the team's Hall of Fame. The quiet, underrated defenseman and onetime captain of the Isles played parts of nine seasons with the team (from 1996 to 2004), scoring 57 goals with 175 assists for 232 points. The unassuming Swede was an all-around solid player, and he helped the Islanders to three playoff appearances in his years with the team. So it was only fitting when defenseman and present Islander captain Mark Streit scored the winning goal in overtime in their 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings just a few hours after the ceremony, and Evgeni Nabokov earned his 306th career win, moving him past Islander legend Billy Smith into 22nd place on the all-time list. The New Jersey Devils weren't as fortunate as the other local teams that afternoon, though, when former Devil Scott Clemmensen and his Florida Panthers defeated his old team, 3-1.
An ABA Saturday Night: The Knicks went to Minnesota to play the Timberwolves 24 hours after beating the Lakers, and somehow they won, 100-98. They were tired, they were out of sorts, their timing was off, they missed nine free throws, they committed 19 turnovers and Lin had an off-night (this was only his fourth career start -- is he even eligible to have an "off-night" yet?), but they still managed to pull out a win, mainly because of their defense. Steve Novak, Iman Shumpert and Fields (remember when the latter two were the Garden flavor of the week?) came up big at the end. The T-wolves added a twist to the night by wearing throwback Minnesota Muskies uniforms. The Muskies were an original ABA franchise, going 50-28 in their one year in Minnesota in 1967-'68, losing in the playoffs to Connie Hawkins and the eventual champion Pittsburgh Pipers. The following season, the Muskies moved and became the Miami Floridians, and they met the Pipers again in the playoffs, only this time it was the Pipers who were now playing in Minnesota. In year three of the ABA, the Pipers moved back to Pittsburgh but changed their name to the Condors. Both franchises folded after five seasons. Meanwhile, the Nets and San Antonio Spurs staged one more New York Nets-Dallas Chaparrals meeting for old-time's sake. The Spurs won easily, 103-89. San Antonio began life as the Dallas Chaparrals, playing with that name for five of their first six seasons (they were known as the Texas Chaparrals in their fourth season), before becoming the San Antonio Spurs for the 1973-'74 season. (And that wraps up today's brief history lesson -- well, until Wednesday's Nets recap.)
Sunday Afternoon on the Ice: The Rangers beat the Washington Capitals (who wore their old 1970s uniforms), 3-2. The Blueshirts worked hard, they blocked shots, Henrik Lundqvist was great -- you know, the same old, same old. In the only other game that day, the Islanders jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead against the Panthers, but Florida scored four unanswered goals to win, 4-1.
A Quiet Monday: A day of rest. Though rumors of A.J. Burnett being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates are in the air. And it was announced that Anthony Morrow will participate in the three-point shooting contest during All-Star weekend.
Everybody Wins Tuesday: The day kicked off with the New York Mets announcing their 50th anniversary bobblehead series will feature Tom Seaver, Rusty Staub, Keith Hernandez, Edgardo Alfonzo and Mike Piazza, and Brook Lopez returned to Nets practice. As for the games, the Knicks were getting blown out by the Toronto Raptors, in Stoudemire's return, in which, to no one's surprise, he looked a little rusty. New York stormed back, though, with solid team defense in the fourth quarter, highlighted by Shumpert's clampdown D on Jose Calderon and crucial steal in the waning minutes. But the game came down to Lin, of course, who added to his legend with an unbelievable, ice-water-in-his-veins, gutsy draining of a three-pointer with half a second left to win the game, 100-97. The Knicks, though, are striving to be what the Rangers already are -- a complete team that competes every night, and beats the best teams, playing the game the right way, with hard work, smart, efficient play and everybody buying into the system and playing like a team. And when they don't play at the top of their game, like Tuesday vs. the Boston Bruins, Lundqvist is there to win it for them. The King made 42 saves while shutting out the Bruins, and it wasn't one of those rocking-chair shutouts, either, as he had to make one brilliant save after another. The Islanders won in exciting fashion, as well, defeating the Winnipeg Jets (couldn't they have jumped on the trend and worn their old WHA uniforms?), 3-1, with P.A. Parenteau netting the game-winner in the third period, and Nabokov making 37 saves. And the Devils also came out on top, besting the Buffalo Sabres, 4-1, with Ilya Kovalchuk notching his first hat trick as a Devil. Still waiting on the Burnett trade . . .
NBA/ABA Wednesday: The Knicks didn't needed any last-second heroics this time around, as they blew out the Sacramento Kings, 100-85. Lin dished out a career-best 13 assists, as the Knicks are now settling into becoming a "team," with each player finding his niche, whether it's a matter of Lin making everyone around him better or everyone just stepping up and gelling at the same time. While Sacramento didn't wear a Kansas City Kings or even Cincinnati Royals throwback uniform, there was more time-capsule action at the Rock, as the Nets and Memphis Grizzlies wore ABA uniforms on Wednesday night. The old Dr. J threads didn't bring any luck to the Nets, though, as late turnovers pretty much handed the game to Memphis (105-100). The Grizzlies never played in the ABA, of course, but there was a Memphis franchise in that league for five seasons. They began life as the New Orleans Buccaneers in the inaugural season of the new league, and after three years moved to Memphis, where they were known as the Pros, the Tams (stands for Tennessee-Arkansas-Mississippi) and finally the Sounds. Memphis owner Charlie Finley, who also owned the Oakland A's and now-defunct California Golden Seals, dressed them in the green-and-yellow getups that the Grizzlies wore to match his other two teams, after he changed their name to the Tams. The league took over the franchise for their last season, playing as the Sounds (and were almost purchased by Isaac Hayes, but that deal fell through), before finally folding. (We're almost done with the history lesson.) Still waiting on the Burnett trade . . .
Midwestern Massacre: Three local teams were in action on Thursday and each one lost to a Midwestern team. With Lundqvist getting the night off, the Rangers dug themselves a 4-0 hole against the Chicago Blackhawks that they couldn't recover from. The Blackhawks almost had more penalty shots and breakaways than the Blueshirts had shots on goal in the first period. The Rangers made a game of it, though, chipping away at the deficit, and they didn't lose -- they just ran out of time (ok, they lost, 4-2). The Nets went back to sporting their regular, modern uniforms in Indiana, but that didn't help them, as they lost another close one, 93-88. Lopez can't return soon enough. The Pacers wore their throwbacks, as they had a storied ABA history, winning the most titles of any team (three) and being one of only two franchises to make it through all nine ABA seasons with just one name (the Kentucky Colonels were the other -- ok, now the history lesson is over). The Islanders completed the Midwestern massacre, getting shellacked by the St. Louis Blues, 5-1. They had a bit of a throwback experience as well, with oldtimer Jiggs McDonald calling the game. In other news, Lin will be heading to All-Star weekend to participate in the Rising Stars Game, and Shumpert will compete in the Slam Dunk Contest. The Knicks are expected to sign shooting guard J.R. Smith on Friday. And the Burnett trade is expected to go down any minute now . . .
The Kid: R.I.P. Gary Carter. He was a Hall of Famer, a World Champion and a class individual whose enthusiasm for baseball was only matched by his toughness, leadership and kindness. He died much too young, and he will be missed. Click here for statements, memories and thoughts on the Kid.
And that's the New York week that was.