If Jeremy Lin brought Madison Square Garden its best basketball moments in a decade and reinvigorated a fanbase, then Carmelo Anthony and Co. haven't missed a beat his absence. On Monday, the New York Knicks host the Houston Rockets for the first time since they decided to let Linsanity leave in one of the most anticipated regular games in the entire league this season.
While Lin's rise to fame made him one of the most popular athletes in the world and probably the most universally-liked Knick among their fanbase, the Knicks felt that Lin's offseason price tag was too high. The decision to let Lin walk enraged many Knicks fans, even some going so far as to change allegiances to the Brooklyn Nets. But it's become clear that money and egos may not have been the only factor the Knicks considered when ultimately letting Lin go. Bringing in Raymond Felton to run the point with Jason Kidd and a bevy of other veterans, the Knicks appeared ready to play a certain style and find the right pieces to fit it. The result? An 18-5 record, the best in the East.
For Lin, its been a little bit bumpy in his second go around with Houston, which was to be expected on a young team. He's averaging just over 10 points a game and is handing out six assists per, numbers much lower than the ones he put up when bursting onto the scene last year. The most alarming thing about Lin's season is probably his shooting, as he's at just under 40% overall. While he's still capable of putting up big games - last week's 38-point outburst on San Antonio is proof - Lin has been in single digits in scoring probably way more times than anyone thought he would be at this point in the season.
The game is a rematch from the Rockets' 131-103 shellacking of the Knicks back on Nov. 23. In that game, Lin was mainly a bystander scoring 13 points and adding three assists and seven rebounds, rather it was Chandler Parsons and James Harden who combined for 64 points in the blowout. Interesting how we just now mention Harden, who is having a spectacular season. While Lin is the juicy story and rightfully so, for the Knicks the game will hinge on how they contain Harden, likely not Lin.
For the Knicks, they look to stay perfect at home and are likely to have the services of Carmelo Anthony back, who missed Saturday's victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers with a sprained left ankle. You can bet he won't want to miss this one.
Throughout Knicks' history there have been many moments when the game - and the individual - has lived up to the hype. think Michael Jordan's "double-nickel" in 1995, his first game back at MSG after his retirement. That's the type of spotlight that will be on Lin tonight. Will he deliver another memorable moment, like the many he brought Knicks fans in such a short time frame last year?