Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Updated: February 23, 4:23 PM ET
Jeremy Lin faces test with tough Heat D
By Ian Begley
Special to ESPNNewYork.com
NEW YORK -- Lin versus LeBron?
It'll happen Thursday night when the New York Knicks take on the Miami Heat.
And when it does, point guard Jeremy Lin insists he won't change his approach against LeBron James -- one of the best defenders in the NBA.
"Obviously, LeBron is a great player and a great, great defender. So I've just got to be aggressive and not change anything on my end," Lin said after leading the Knicks to their ninth win in 11 games, a 99-82 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.
James told reporters in Miami that he will defend Lin at times when the Knicks (17-17) face the Heat (26-7).
"I know I'm going to end up guarding Lin at some point," James said.
The Knicks head to Miami with a .500 record thanks largely to their resurgence under Lin.
The 23-year-old guard has led New York to a 9-2 record since he starting playing significant minutes earlier this month.
On Wednesday, Lin scored 17 points and handed out nine assists in a win over Atlanta.
Over the past 11 games, Lin is averaging 23.9 points and 9.2 assists.
Prior to Lin taking over, the Knicks were seven games under .500 and had lost 11 of 13.
Lin's story has captured the attention of the sports world in part because of his journey to get here.
He was undrafted out of Harvard and had been cut twice in the preseason before being picked up off of waivers by the Knicks.
Lin was stuck on the end of the bench early in his Knicks tenure, playing a total of 22 minutes in his first month with the team. He even spent a one-game stint with the Knicks' D-League affiliate.
Lin first got a chance to play in part because the Knicks faced a deadline by which they had to guarantee his contract or release him.
So Mike D'Antoni decided to give him major minutes Feb. 4. He responded by leading the Knicks to a win over the New Jersey Nets. The team went on a season-high seven-game winning streak under Lin, with three of those wins coming with Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony sidelined.
"He's a great kid. It's an unbelievable story," D'Antoni said of Lin. "It's fun; people are excited. We'll see where it goes."
The story goes to Miami on Thursday, when the Knicks will face a Heat team that's won seven straight games -- each of them by at least 12 points.
The Knicks have played the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks during Lin's run, but Miami will be their toughest test.
"You know they're going to try to jump all over you and double-team you almost at every place and be quick as heck," D'Antoni said. "I'm curious to see how Jeremy will adjust to it."
D'Antoni said he won't have any advice for Lin on potentially facing James.
"He'll find out himself. He might as well experience it," D'Antoni said. "That's good; it's maximum respect if it happens. Jeremy will handle it, and hopefully the Knicks will handle it."
James, of course, won't be matched up exclusively on Lin. Lin likely will face Miami point guards Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole and maybe even shooting guard Dwyane Wade.
James should spend significant time guarding Knicks small forward Anthony.
Anthony said he'll have some advice for Lin before his first matchup with the Heat.
"They have some great guys on that team, they're a great team [and] they're playing great team basketball right now," Anthony said. "... It's going to be a fun atmosphere down there. It's going to be one of the games that he hasn't been part of yet."
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.