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Thursday, February 9, 2012
Lin-sanity: Donnie Nelson had early peg

By Jeff Caplan

Jeremy Lin took the 2010 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas by storm. He became an instant star after holding his own going head-to-head with the Washington Wizards No. 1 pick John Wall.

Lin was playing for the Dallas Mavericks, whose president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson was the only NBA executive to offer the impressive guard from Harvard a chance to show what he's got in the annual five-game summer showcase in the desert.

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Mavs GM Donnie Nelson talks about Jeremy Lin blowing up in New York, how he discovered the point guard from Harvard and how good it feels to see him have success.

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Lin, now with his third team and suddenly blowing away the league and lighting a spark under the New York Knicks, actually outplayed Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones at point guard that summer and quickly became the talk of the tournament. So much so that Nelson and the Mavs offered the 6-foot-3 long shot a one-year guaranteed contract.

Lin turned it into two years from his hometown Golden State Warriors.

"When we offered him the one-year guarantee we felt like he was ours, but there's no place like home," Nelson said Thursday during an appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Ben & Skin Show. "I’m just always attracted to smart point guards. Jason Kidd and Stevie Nash and J.J. [Barea], they’ve all got their individual slants; J.J. is a little bit more of a scoring point guard, obviously a guy like Jason is a once-in-a-lifetime-type Hall of Famer, but with Jeremy I really, really liked the way he saw the game. He was kind of a stock that really hadn’t been exposed very much at Harvard."

Golden State wasn't long for Lin after he played mostly on their D-League team. The Warriors waived him on Dec. 11 and the Houston Rockets signed him three days later. Two weeks later he was a member of the New York Knicks, a team desperate for a competent point guard and one coached by Mike D'Antoni, an offensive mind who had done some pretty good work with a particular two-time MVP point guard in Phoenix.

Lin finally got his shot with the Knicks and he's been an instant smash with "Linsanity" just one slogan born from his remarkable three-game run in which he's averaged 25.3 points and 8.3 assists while leading New York to only its second three-game win streak of the season -- and with Carmelo Anthony injured and out of the lineup.

The Mavs' plan for Lin was to sign him and let him develop with their D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends, in Frisco. Dallas, of course, had Jason Kidd and Beaubois coming off an impressive rookie season.

"I’m just really, really happy to see him do well," Nelson said. "Because he’s a great kid, he’s got a great family and a really good future."

More additional background on Lin's rise at the Vegas Summer League, click here.