Back in Houston, Lin Already Feels at Home

“We wouldn’t be getting a Christmas game if it wasn’t for Jeremy Lin,” guard Shaun Livingston said as the Rockets held media day on Monday to open their training camp. Livingston is right. Aside from Lin, the 2012-13 Rockets’ roster is rather bland as well as young. Eleven of the 20 players are rookies or second-year players. In that sense, the 24-year-old Lin, a 6-foot-3-inch point guard with all of 64 games of N.B.A. experience, fits right in. And his teammates seemed to enjoy talking, and joking, about him.

“I can’t wait until I’m watching ESPN and I see a highlight of Jeremy Lin passing me the ball and I hit a shot and they say, ‘Jeremy Lin to Jeremy Lamb,’ ” said Lamb, a rookie out of Connecticut. “Or the other way around when I pass it to him, because he’s a great shooter.”

In 35 games (25 starts) with the last season, Lin averaged 14.6 points and 6.2 assists a game. More than that, he became a national phenomenon, the Lin in Linsanity, which, in the end, did not last all that long because, over the summer, the Knicks did not match the Rockets’ free-agent contract offer.

So now Lin is in Houston, where he seemed at home as he talked to reporters. “I had a lot of fun last year, and I’m having a lot of fun now,” he said.

“For me, I see this as just the beginning. I’ve played only 64 games. I’m very young and learning.”

In a sense, the Rockets are learning, too, as they try to determine how best to use their new star.

“We’ve got to figure out what he does really well and get more of that, and what he doesn’t do well, we’ll have other people do that,” said Kevin McHale, the Rockets’ coach.

This is actually Lin’s second stint with the Rockets. Last December, he was in Houston’s training camp for 12 days as the N.B.A. prepared for a lockout-delayed start to the season. The Knicks then claimed him off waivers on Dec. 27.

Lin said his discussions with the Rockets this past summer, as they successfully recruited him away from the Knicks, gave him some idea of what to expect from McHale.

As to what to expect from other N.B.A. players, who may think he has not really earned the fame and fortune he has quickly built, Lin seemed unconcerned.

“It’s out of my control,” Lin said. “I’m going to play the same whether there’s a target on my back or not.”

Then there are his teammates, who do not seem jealous at all.

“Everything he got last year he never asked for,” forward Chandler Parsons said.

“The way he carries himself, I have the upmost respect for him, and the guys embrace that and respect that and want to be around it. I love that he’s in Houston.”

Shooting guard Kevin Martin added, “He’s the guy I’m looking at to relieve a lot of pressure off me.”

Lin said he thought playing with the Rockets again would be fun “because we’re talented.”

“And I’ve been playing with the guys in the off-season,” he said. “They’re definitely talented.”

New York already seems to be fading into the distance.

Knicks Escape to Play Another Day

“11:00 a.m. — Film.”

“3:00 p.m. — To South Beach.”

A strange and twisting season that by all rights should have ended Sunday afternoon will instead last another few days, after a soul-cleansing 89-87 victory over the that kept the Knicks’ playoff hopes alive, if by the narrowest of margins.

The Knicks still trail in the first-round series, three games to one. But that one is bursting with meaning and satisfaction: the franchise’s first playoff win since 2001. The end of a humiliating drought that lasted an N.B.A.-record 13 games and consumed countless coaches and would-be saviors. The first playoff triumph for and Amar’e Stoudemire as teammates.

“The first of many,” Stoudemire promised.

His first chance to make good on that promise will come Wednesday, in Game 5 at American Airlines Arena in Miami. History suggests the Knicks cannot make it out of this series, but this was not a day to doubt Stoudemire’s resolve or Anthony’s determination.

Anthony was brilliant in the late stages Sunday, driving the Knicks to victory with 41 points, including a 12-point fourth quarter and a huge 3-pointer in the final minute. Stoudemire — who nearly ended his season with a self-inflicted laceration of his left hand after Game 2 — earned a fantastic bit of redemption, with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and a critical free throw with 14.8 seconds to go.

That foul shot gave the Knicks a 2-point edge and put the pressure on Miami in the final seconds. The Heat’s last possession ended with Dwyane Wade putting up an off-balance, turnaround 3-point shot in front of the Knicks’ bench as time expired.

The ball clanked off the rim, and thousands of blue and orange streamers cascaded from the rafters, a moment many years overdue.

Stoudemire and Anthony made 23 of the Knicks’ 32 field goals, their most meaningful tag-team effort since they became teammates 15 months ago. Anthony, who had been bottled up and flustered by and Shane Battier all series, unleashed the frustration with a series of timely drives, playing like the star the Knicks were promised.

“He wasn’t ready to go home,” Coach Mike Woodson said, smiling broadly.

At a minimum, the Knicks avoided a sweep. Now comes the toughest part: winning in Miami, where they are 0-4 this season. No N.B.A. team has won a playoff series after trailing by 3-0, and a vast majority (90 out of 100) have lost in four or five games.

The Knicks’ odds will be even longer, after they lost Baron Davis to a season-ending knee injury Sunday. Davis dislocated his right kneecap during a third-quarter rally, becoming the second Knicks guard to go down in the series. Iman Shumpert tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in Game 1.

Mike Bibby will probably start at point guard in Game 5, with J. R. Smith as the de facto backup and Toney Douglas as an emergency reserve. It is conceivable that Jeremy Lin, who has been recovering from knee surgery, could be available. The Knicks were not prepared to make that leap yet.

After losing the first three games of this series by double digits, and a combined 60 points, the Knicks played with a focused desperation. For the first time, they played a meaningful and riveting fourth quarter.

Anthony scored on back-to-back layups for a 78-75 lead. James, who had a team-high 27 points, hit two free throws to give Miami a 79-78 lead. Anthony tied the game at 79-79 (on a free throw) and again at 81-81 (on a 15-footer). Bibby hit a 3-pointer for an 84-81 lead. Miami tied the game on a 3-pointer from James.

Then, with the shot clock running down and fans screaming nervously, Anthony hit a 3-pointer over Battier — his designated tormentor in the series — giving the Knicks an 87-84 lead with 54.5 seconds left.

Anthony had the chance to put the game away on the next possession, when Battier fouled him on a 3-point attempt. But he missed the first two free throws, then sank the third for a 4-point lead.

James cut the margin to 1 point with a 3-point play.

Stoudemire was widely criticized by fans and commentators last week after his impulsive smashing of a fire-extinguisher case following Game 2 in Miami. He needed surgery to repair a torn muscle and had been considered doubtful to play again in the series.

Before tip-off, Stoudemire was introduced last, his customary slot, and was welcomed back with a forgiving roar. Hope, not anger, was the predominant feeling Sunday.

“I didn’t really feel like I had something to prove,” he said, adding, “It makes me feel better that we won.”


Iman Shumpert attended his first game since having knee surgery and vowed to come back stronger next season. “I don’t have any fear,” he said Sunday. “I know when I get back, I hope that this leg is better than ever. It’s going to be stronger than ever.” Shumpert, the Knicks’ best perimeter defender, is expected to need six to eight months to recover. He can only wonder how different the series might have looked had he been on the court. “We could do that, go back and forth with that all the time — if Stat’s healthy, if Jeremy’s healthy,” he said, referring to Amar’e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin. “But it’s like who we got out there is who we got out there. I still think we’re good enough to beat them.”

Knicks Coach Not Counting on Lin for Game 5

Mike Woodson isn’t expecting it.

The interim coach said Monday he wasn’t counting on Jeremy Lin to play Wednesday when his short-handed Knicks visit Miami for Game 5 of their first-round playoff series.

“I’m going at this as if he’s not going to play. That’s how it’s been here for the last month, month and a half, and that’s how I’m preparing,” Woodson said during a conference call.

Woodson also knows Baron Davis won’t be available after the veteran guard tore ligaments in his right knee.

Lin became the biggest story in the NBA in February when he went from undrafted benchwarmer out of Harvard to starring point guard who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated two weeks in a row. A quicker-than-expected return from knee surgery would be heavily hyped with the Knicks down two point guards and facing elimination against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Heat. But Lin just may not be ready to attempt it.

“I’ve watched him shoot and run up and down. He’s not in great shape and you know as well as I know that playoff basketball, you’ve got to be at an all-time high, and he hasn’t played in a while,” Woodson said. “So I don’t know if that’s going to be a determining factor with the doctors, and the fact that he hasn’t played. I can say, yes, he looks good, but again, does he feel good? Do the doctors think it’s enough time based on the injury that he’s had to get him out on the floor? I can’t make that decision.”

Davis and Iman Shumpert have been lost to knee injuries during this series, leaving only 33-year-old Mike Bibby and seldom-used Toney Douglas at the point guard spot. Lin is close, but Woodson said that only the player and the team’s medical staff would determine when he can get back on the court.

“Again, I’d love to have Jeremy out there on the floor in uniform,” Woodson said. “Don’t get me wrong, guys. Jeremy is a big piece of our team. But if the doctors say, ‘Mike, we’re taking a chance; he shouldn’t be out there playing,’ I can’t be that selfish and say, ‘Son, put on a uniform and play.’ I mean, I just can’t do that.”

Lin has been playing in 3-on-3 workouts after surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee April 2. The Knicks said at the time he was expected to miss six weeks, meaning his season was likely over unless they reached the second round.

He was going to work out again Monday, and the Knicks will practice Tuesday. Woodson said he would prefer to see Lin go through an entire practice with full contact before seeing him in a game against one of the NBA’s fiercest defenses. But there’s just no time for that.

“So I am a little apprehensive about him possibly coming back. But again, if he comes to me and says, ‘Coach, I want to play,’ and the doctors say it’s all right for him to play — they might put a minute time where he can only play so many minutes. I don’t know,” Woodson said.

The Heat harassed Lin into eight turnovers and 1-for-11 shooting in a Feb. 23 victory in Miami, so they’ll be ready if Lin is.

“Well, we’ve seen him before,” forward Chris Bosh said. “And we just have to take the challenge. We’re going to challenge him. He hasn’t played in a while. It’s tough to come back in the playoffs. If he does come back, we’ll have a game plan specific for him and just challenge him and just compete.”

Woodson said he was confident in Bibby, his former point guard in Atlanta who made a key 3-pointer with 1:23 left Sunday. And he said he would not push Lin to come back if the player is unsure, even if it gave him a better chance at a victory as he tries to secure his return for next season.

“When you’re dealing with professional athletes, I would never put a player in that position and tell him that I think he should play,” Woodson said. “Especially after you’ve had an injury, because it’s just not my place to do that.”

Davis tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee and also has a partial tear of the patellar tendon. He will undergo surgery later this week and likely is out for a year.


AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.


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