- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is way back on Feb. 3, back when the notion of Linsanity was well, insane.
Jeremy Lin's just another 15th man in the NBA, sitting anonymously on the end of the Knicks bench that night in Boston. In four days, the Knicks will have to decide whether to cut Lin or guarantee his contract for the remainder of the season.
So Feb. 3 is a crucial night for Lin, or so it seems.
Mike D'Antoni inserts Lin 2:38 to go in the first quarter.
He turns the ball over, misses a layup and the Knicks commit two 24-second violations in his seven minutes on the floor.
Lin's night ends when he fouls Avery Bradley -- his second foul of the night. The Knicks have a four-point lead on the Celtics when Lin enters the game and they are up four when he exits. Not terrible. But he certainly didn't instill confidence in the Knicks coaches.
It's an ominous sign when Lin is left on the bench in the second half. Were the Knicks on the verge of cutting the Harvard grad?
"We weren't sure what was going to happen," Roger Montgomery, Lin's agent, said by phone over the weekend. Montgomery notes that the uncertainty surrounding Lin would have been the same for any other player with an unguaranteed contract.
Lin had played just 22 minutes in his first month with the team. And he hadn't given the Knicks any glaring reason to keep him to that point.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported that the Knicks strongly weighed whether to release Lin and replace him with Mike James.
The next night, Lin got another shot against the Nets -- and took full advantage, scoring 25 points and handing out seven assists.
"The rest is history," Montgomery says.
It certainly is.
Lin is the first player in league history to have at least 20 points and seven assists in each of his four career starts. The Harvard grad has scored 109 points in his first four career starts, which is the most by any player since the NBA and ABA merged in 1976. In his last five games -- all Knicks wins -- the 23-year-old is averaging 26.8 points and 8 assists.
Lin, an Asian American, is the first American-born player of Taiwanese or Chinese descent to play in the NBA.
Before the lockout ended, Lin considered playing in Italy, according to Montgomery.
Even if he'd played in Italy, though, he would have signed a contract that would have allowed him to return to the NBA, Montgomery said.
There are reports of Lin turning down an offer from Yao Ming's Shanghai Sharks team. But Montgomery insists that no offer was ever made. Chinese Basketball Association rules prohibited teams from offering contracts to players under contract. Lin was in the second year of a two-year deal.
So instead of going overseas, the undrafted Lin returned to the Warriors, who cut him in training camp to create cap space. He then went to Houston but was released by the Rockets because they had three point guards with guaranteed contracts on the roster.
So he ended up in New York after rookie Iman Shumpert suffered a knee injury early in the season. He played a total of 22 minutes in his first month with the Knicks and spent six days in the D-League. The Knicks had three days to decide whether they wanted to keep Lin before his breakout performance on Feb. 4.
So Linsanity almost never happened.
Even though Lin showed promise and worked hard, Mike D'Antoni acknowledged that he may have never gotten a chance.
"I'd like to think that it would all work out," D'Antoni said last week. "If a guy really is true to his profession and works hard that eventually he'll get a chance. I don't think it always works out that way. There's just some randomness in the world and it's crazy. But he made the most of his situation and we're going to try to make the most of him being able to play."
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