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By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor - Archive - Email
Linsanity now
Jeremy Lin will lead the Rockets into MSG for the first time since he left the Knicks.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The 12-12-12 concert for Sandy relief was a huge spectacle last week, held at Madison Square Garden.

Monday's matchup between the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks won't top the concert. But it will feature a phenomenon that was once as big as almost every band that performed for that noble cause.

Linsanity returns to the Garden.

Jeremy Lin will lead his new team, the Rockets, into MSG for the first time since he left the Knicks as a restricted free agent in the offseason.

The Knicks shocked some by failing to match Lin's contract offer from the Rockets for about $25 million over three years. They thought his impact on the Knicks, both on and off the court, and in New York would be too much to bypass.

Another population believed that was a lot to pay for a guy who played 64 total games in the NBA.

"It's not up to me," Carmelo Anthony told Newsday during the summer of matching the offer sheet. "It's up to the organization to say that they want to match that ridiculous contract."

"Ridiculous" may have been a strong word, but not entirely inappropriate. Lin averaged 2.6 ppg before hitting the Big Apple, then exploded in the winter of 2012.

From Feb. 4-Feb. 22, Lin went off for a 23.9 ppg average and became the toast of not just the Knicks, but the world.

Lin appeared on the cover of "Sports Illustrated" in consecutive weeks. The other NBA players to do that - Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Jordan.

Lin was named to "Time" magazine's 2012 list of "Top 100 Most Influential People in the World."

He is the second-most Googled person of 2012 behind only Whitney Houston.

Lin's jersey was the second-highest selling in the NBA in 2012.

He was even once romantically linked to Kim Kardashian. That's when you know you made it.

But Lin left the bright lights of Manhattan and headed south for Houston. At the start of training camp, the Rockets looked bad on paper. They mortgaged everything in an attempt to trade for Dwight Howard and failed. Just before the start of the season, Houston acquired James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder and things looked promising.

The Rockets head to Madison Square Garden on Monday night with a respectable record of 11-12. It's been a trying year in Houston with the death of head coach Kevin McHale's daughter Sasha at the far too young age of 23. First- round pick Royce White has been at odds with the team over his treatment for anxiety disorder as well.

Through it all, the Rockets are in the mix for a playoff spot in this very early part of the NBA calendar. Most of the credit belongs to Harden. He is fifth in the league in scoring and has added a dimension that the Rockets didn't have.

Lin has been a part of the success, but it has been far from a spectacular season. He thrived under then Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo, point- guard reliant system. Under McHale's less frenetic style, Lin's numbers are down.

He is averaging 10.8 ppg and 6.0 apg. Lin's turnovers are down from last season and his minutes are up, but Lin has put together only one truly signature performance. Against the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 10, Lin scored 38 points and had seven assists in a noble losing effort.

In 23 games this season, Lin has cracked double-digits in scoring only 11 times. He has gotten double-figure in assists just three times.

"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 of everything that's going on with the change of scenery," Lin admitted after a Sunday loss to the Toronto Raptors. "I'll be my harshest critic but I'll go ahead and say it: I'm doing terrible."

But Linsanity is still running wild in Houston, despite the fact that Lin is "doing terrible." Lin is third in Western Conference guard All-Star voting behind just Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul. The game is in Houston this year.

An Asian-American, Lin has tremendous international appeal. Fans vote on NBA.com, or Twitter, or Facebook, but also on Chinese social media sites as well. Sending an undeserving player to an All-Star game is not exclusive to the NBA or Lin, but it would be hard to deny that Linsanity doesn't still exist based on these All-Star voting figures.

Compound the unthinkable All-Star numbers with the anticipation for Monday night's game and Linsanity is definitely still a force. Although, according to the Knicks' website, tickets are still available, Lin's welcome will be interesting to see.

"I think they're going to give him a heck of an ovation," Knicks forward Steve Novak told ESPN New York's Ian Begley. "I'd be shocked if it was anything else. Unless everybody changed their mind and hates him, he's one of those guys that people are going to remember for his time here. It wasn't a very long time, but it was special. He played unbelievably well. I think there will be a movie about it one day."

For his part, Lin just wants it to be over.

"I'm definitely ready to get it over with just because I think in some sense there will be some closure," he said.

The Knicks faithful can be respectable. After all, it was the Knicks who declined to bring Lin back. Also, the Knicks are awesome and don't have to bother worrying about Lin.

Most basketball fans, and some who have no concept of how to run a pick-and- roll. will be tuned in to see Lin's return to New York.

Granted, Kim has moved on to Kanye, but Linsanity is still breathing.

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