The Knicks’ Jeremy Lin Keeps His Cool as Heads Spin Around Him

“He got 38 points in the context of team basketball,” Coach Mike D’Antoni said after his Anthony-and-Amar’e-Stoudemire-less . Was that a message to the injured Anthony, who watched from the bench, where he could not disrupt the resurgently fluid D’Antoni offense with isolation play?

It turns out the much-maligned Knicks bench isn’t that bad, as long as it is starting and Lin is facilitating. Surely more plot twists are ahead in a season that continued Saturday in Minneapolis against the Timberwolves, but the new Disney-like paradigm stars some guy off the street who found a pair of magical sneakers.

rarely happen in big-money professional sports, and especially with a franchise like the Knicks, long known for big-ticket acquisitions like the none-too-compatible forwards Anthony and Stoudemire last season.

Hence, the emergence of Lin is hard to believe, even for someone who has already lived a variation of it.

“Who is this guy? Where’d they find him?” the Giants’ Justin Tuck wondered aloud to a small group of friends while waiting for an elevator after watching Lin — in the most dramatic episode of his new hit reality show, “Harvard to Heaven” — continue to make a mockery of developmental convention.

Granted, compared with the rocket launching of Lin, Victor Cruz’s unheralded rise to pass-catching prominence was aboard a hot-air balloon. And Tuck, a defensive star of the , was somewhat preoccupied a week ago Saturday when the desperate Knicks unleashed Linsanity.

But out on the court after the Knicks’ so-called junior varsity won its fourth straight game, a gentleman who has seen it all at the self-proclaimed World’s Most Famous Arena — or believed he had — shook his head in giddy disbelief.

“I’ve been coming here since high school in 1955,” said Cal Ramsey, leaning on a cane in the runway. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life, just out of nowhere.”

Long after his bewildered teammates had trudged into the night, Bryant emerged to say in hushed tones for gravitas: “When a player is playing that well, he doesn’t come out of nowhere. It seems like he comes out of nowhere. Go back and take a look, and the skill level was probably there from the beginning, it’s just that we didn’t notice it.”

Whatever D’Antoni was watching at practice for the first month and a half of the season, whatever Lin’s coaches at Golden State and Houston somehow missed, have we all seen enough of Lin to call him the Knicks’ grandest stroke of fortune since the league arranged for them to win the Patrick Ewing lottery (just kidding, Commissioner) in 1985?

Maybe this astonishing breakout is more a commentary on an American style of play that has evolved from the look-at-me, A.A.U. culture. In pass-first Europe last season, Ricky Rubio, Lin’s opponent Saturday night, was said to be regressing as a player. In Minnesota, he has become a family jewel.

But Linsanity — on the New York stage — became in one week the most infectious grass-roots movement since the Tea Party.

“I didn’t think it would last, to tell you the truth,” said Ramsey, who has been part of the Knicks family in many roles, player to promotions. “But he’s so composed out there, doesn’t get excited. He turns the ball over, but that’s going to happen with guys who handle the ball that much.”

Ramsey smiled and said, “Did you see that spin move on the break?”

to Derek Fisher’s attempted physicality and foreshadowed Fisher’s taking a seat that might as well have been a rocker.

If not for Lin, this could have been about a Lakers team that is slow and shallow and may leave Bryant feeling 75 years old by the end of this brutally condensed schedule. But the takeaway from the night was how Lin answered more questions about his game with exclamation points.

Could he get to the rim and finish against the Lakers’ 7-footers, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol? However heavy-legged he and his teammates were from the previous night’s overtime victory in Boston, Bynum wound up comparing Lin to Steve Nash.

“A lot like Nash, only more aggressive to the basket,” he said after Lin continually broke the Lakers down, persistent even after being stuffed or double-teamed and forced to retreat.

Could Lin shoot well enough from the perimeter when defenders inevitably sagged to limit his penetration? He began the game with a flurry of jumpers. He iced it by sticking a 3-pointer behind the key in Gasol’s face, then setting up a left-side 18-footer with a gorgeous pump fake and step-in.

He made a believer of Bryant, who one night earlier in Boston had confessed total ignorance to the fuss.

“I think it’s a great story,” Bryant said, while playing down potential complications whenever Anthony returns. “I think Melo having the ball in his hands in this town is a little bit overrated. That’s where he operates, on the post. He’s not going to be the facilitator. Melo can put the ball in the basket, do what he does best.”

That said, Bryant took a few seconds to “talk smack” with Anthony before the start of the second half. He wouldn’t say what he told his Olympic team buddy. But it might have been something like, “We could use you more than these guys.”

Warriors Use Second-Half Run to Beat the Knicks

The Knicks’ presumed strengths were not in evidence, however, nor was their composure or any sense of cohesion Wednesday night, and their first road game ended in a stunning to the Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors were missing Stephen Curry, their star point guard, and they trailed for most of the game. But Monta Ellis got hot in the fourth quarter, leading the Warriors (2-1) on a 28-6 run while the Knicks imploded at both ends of the court.

“The whole game, our offense was awful,” Coach Mike D’Antoni said, bemoaning the Knicks’ failure to build on an early 8-point lead. “We let opportunities slip by, just because we weren’t in sync, we didn’t make shots, we turned the ball over, we gave up layups. And we let them hang around until they caught a little bit of fire.”

Ellis (22 points) had been held largely in check until he got loose for 12 points in the fourth quarter, when the Warriors converted 10 of 15 shots. The Knicks (1-1) were 5 for 19 in the period, with Anthony missing all four of his attempts and Toney Douglas going 1 for 5.

Anthony finished with just 13 points, going 3 for 13 from the field. Amar’e Stoudemire was just as erratic, going 5 for 14 for 16 points. Chandler played just 21 minutes 34 seconds — and 1 minute in the fourth quarter — because of foul trouble, finishing with 3 rebounds, 2 points and a look of disgust.

“As a team, we’ve got to start understanding our defensive principles,” he said. “Because right now we’re doing a lot of making up, so we’re getting a lot of fouls, because of being out of position.”

So the bravado that accompanied a season-opening victory over Boston vanished quickly, replaced by humility and a necessary reminder that the Knicks are very much a work in progress.

D’Antoni used 11 players in the first three quarters, including two rookies — Josh Harrellson and Jerome Jordan — and Steve Novak, who just arrived last week. Mike Bibby, who missed Sunday’s opener because of a sore back, had 2 points and 4 assists in his Knicks debut.

The Knicks sagged when either Stoudemire or Anthony was on the bench, and sometimes even when they were on the court.

“I’m not making any excuses,” Chandler said, “but we’re a young team that’s coming together and we have to build. And unfortunately we’re learning things on the fly.”

There will be no time to work out the kinks. The Knicks immediately headed to Los Angeles for a Thursday night game against the Lakers. They close the trip Saturday in Sacramento.

For the second straight game, the Knicks benefited — or should have — from a noteworthy absence. This time it was Curry, who sat out the game to rest an injured ankle. Still, the Knicks’ backcourt had trouble holding its counterparts in check. Ish Smith, who replaced Curry, had 11 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Brandon Rush added 19 points off the bench.

“Just one of those games where you see we’re not quite ready yet,” D’Antoni said.

David Lee, the former Knicks center, added 13 points in what will be his only game against the Knicks this season. Because of the abbreviated schedule, the Warriors will not visit New York, which also means that Mark Jackson, the former Knicks star, will have to wait a year to make his coaching debut at Madison Square Garden.

Jackson is trying to infuse the Warriors with a defensive conscience, and he beamed after watching them hold down Anthony and Stoudemire.

“This is going to be strange to hear, but we are a defensive team,” Jackson said. “It’s a shocker.”

The night featured four more Knick debuts, as Bibby, Novak and Jordan joined a rotation thinned by injuries to Jared Jeffries and Iman Shumpert. The fourth was Jeremy Lin, who entered with 1:27 to play and the game out of reach. The mix-and-match lineups were reminiscent of a preseason game, and underscored how weak the Knicks’ bench is.

Novak, a shooting specialist, did not take a shot in his first 5-minute stint, but he later converted his first 3-pointer, in the third quarter. Bibby, the Knicks’ backup point guard, did not have an assist in his first 9-minute run.

Harrellson, who seemed so promising in the preseason, played just 4:19, picking up two quick fouls and a turnover.

The Knicks took a 43-37 lead into halftime, thanks to their defense, a 7-point burst from Bill Walker and a welcome resurgence from Landry Fields, the second-year guard, who had 13 points in the half. They led by as many as 8 points.

“Our defense was really good the first half,” D’Antoni said. “We’re up 8 points, and we should have been up 20. And we weren’t and then we paid for it.”

Fields seemed to be finally emerging from a slump that began last February. He played with the aggression that made him a fan favorite, attacking the basket and showing little hesitation with his shots, going 5 for 7 from the field. But he had four turnovers in the game and disappeared in the second half, missing the only three shots he attempted. He was replaced by Walker (14 points) down the stretch.

REBOUNDS

Jeremy Lin, who broke into the league with the Warriors as an undrafted rookie last year, was warmly cheered when he entered the game. He promptly took, and missed, a 19-footer. The Knicks claimed Lin off waivers on Tuesday. He might see little meaningful action until he learns the playbook. “He’s from Harvard. It will take him about an hour and a half,” Coach Mike D’Antoni quipped. Lin is serving as the third-string point guard for now.