Jeremy Lin won't risk health

Updated: May 9, 2012, 7:44 PM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

MIAMI -- New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin tried to get his surgically repaired left knee healthy enough to return to the team's series against the Heat, but he said Wednesday the knee never felt more than 85 percent strong.

Last week, the 23-year-old Lin held out hope he could possibly play in Game 5 on Wednesday night. But the fact that his knee isn't 100 percent is the primary reason why he has been ruled out of action.

"When I worked out, I was probably going 80-85 percent and I just figured in a week I might be 100 percent," Lin said after Knicks shootaround on Wednesday. "... I think to get from 85 percent to 100 percent takes more time than I would have thought."

Lin added that he isn't able to move the way he'd like to before returning to the court.

"It's a matter of me really being able to cut and jump at 100 percent, not at 85, 90 percent," he said. "I could jump but I really can't jump the way I want to. When I get to that point, I'll be fine."

Knicks interim coach Mike Woodson said Tuesday that Lin would be out for the series, and later clarified that he doubts Lin could play if the series reached a seventh game.

"I don't think so. ... He wants to play, but again, if he's not ready, there's not a whole lot can be done," Woodson said. "He's just not physically ready to play. I'm sure he'll step up to the plate and say, 'Hey, I'm ready when the time comes.' But right now, he's out."

The Heat lead the Knicks 3-1 in the best-of-seven series after losing Game 4 Sunday in New York. If New York climbs all the way back from a 3-0 deficit to win the series (something no other NBA team has done), Lin believes he could return for the postseason's second round.

"We'll see how long this playoff run goes and we'll go from there," said the second-year guard, whose return became a more pressing issue when veteran point guard Baron Davis suffered a severe right knee injury Game 4.

The Knicks are extremely thin at point guard going into Game 5. Mike Bibby, 33, will start in place of Davis, while Toney Douglas, who has not played in the first four games of the series, will be the first point guard off the bench. Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith also are expected to handle the ball.

The Knicks also are missing rookie guard Iman Shumpert, who suffered a tear in his left anterior cruciate ligament in Game 1. The day after the Knicks' blowout loss in the opening game of the series, Lin expressed hope that he'd be able to return at some point to face the Heat.

Lin scrimmaged for the first time last week but complained of soreness in his knee the next day. He then worked out again Monday and Tuesday with the hope of returning to the floor for Game 5, but he was not cleared to play by team doctors. Lin also worked out three hours before tipoff, shooting from the perimeter and driving to the basket.

"I tried to take off, tried to plant, just go full speed at 100 percent," said Lin, who added he isn't able to "trust" his knee yet. "It didn't feel right. I felt pain when I tried to take off."

Lin will be a restricted free agent in the offseason. If he re-injured his knee, it likely would affect his value this summer.

Anthony and Amare Stoudemire both intimated on Tuesday that Lin made the correct decision to sit out. They said it was more important for Lin to be healthy for next season than it was to rush his way back, particularly given the physical nature of the Knicks-Heat series.

Even Heat star Dwyane Wade thinks Lin is making the right decision.

"Obviously every player is different, but I think with a player like him who has a bright future, even though he can probably get out there and play, he's not going to be as effective as he wants to be and he might do further damage," he said. "I thought that (Mike Woodson) did a great job saying he wasn't ready. Us as players, we always feel we're ready. We're ready to be on the court and working out. We feel like, 'Man, I might as well go out there and play if I'm going to do all this.' But I thought Woody did a good job of kind of protecting his future, in the sense, with Lin."

On his status as a restricted free agent, Lin did not want to guess where he'd be next season.

"You never really know what happens in this business," he said Wednesday.

Lin did say that he felt like he "owed a lot" to the Knicks' organization. Earlier this season, he emerged from the end of the bench to lead the team to seven straight wins, becoming an international phenomenon in the process.

"I'm definitely comfortable here," Lin said. "I love New York, I love the fans. They gave me a chance, they believed in me. That's why I'm here today, so I owe a lot to this organization."

Lin also agreed with the idea that Woodson would be a good fit to lead the team next year without the interim tag. Woodson was elevated by New York when Mike D'Antoni was fired during the regular season.

"I think he's gotten a lot out of all the players. The way we finished the season, the way we were playing defense, I think we were No. 1 during that stretch of the season," Lin said. "I think he's done a great job with this team and how he uses the players and what he gets out of the players."

Woodson denied a report in the New York Daily News that he and the team have begun discussions on removing his interim tag and hiring him for next season. But the 53-year-old former Hawks coach is believed to be a strong candidate for the job.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Jared Zwerling was used in this report.

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