11:15 am May. 1, 20123
In light of the 2-0 deficit facing the New York Knicks in their series with the Miami Heat, and Amar'e Stoudemire's likely absence, Knicks may be forgiven for taking what pleasure they can in the possible return of Jeremy Lin.
It was only a couple of months ago that the whole Linsanity thing happened, when Lin came off the end of the New York bench and quickly transitioned into an international icon. It was a big moment not just in this odd, truncated N.B.A. season, but in Knicks history.
Although there probably won't be a championship involved in the story of this season, Lin's little chapter will perhaps resonate years from now in the same way as that famous moment back in May 1970, when Willis Reed emerged from the New York locker room on a badly injured leg to make a surprise start in Game 7 of the N.B.A. finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. Reed's appearance surprised even his teammates, and he famously scored the first two baskets of the game for New York, as the Knicks won their first-ever N.B.A. title, 113-99, over a team featuring the Big Three of its time: Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West.
Now just imagine Jeremy Lin, emerging from the New York locker room on Thursday night, ideally with no warning, to inspire the Knicks to a victory over Miami before a delirious Garden crowd.
Obviously, that's a fantasy. And anyway, the Knicks would need Lin to be more than Willis Reed: He'd need to be something more like Reed and Walt Frazier, wrapped into a single, recently injured package.
In that famous Game 7, Reed never scored another point. He didn't have to. Frazier had probably the greatest Game 7 performance of any N.B.A. player ever, with 36 points on 12-for-17 shooting, a perfect 12-for-12 from the foul line, 19 assists and seven rebounds.
Nor was his production isolated: Dick Barnett scored 21 points, Dave DeBusschere added 18 points and Bill Bradley netted 17 points.
But if Lin were to return for Game 3 or 4, he'd be joining a Knicks team with a point guard in Baron Davis fighting against a ton of injuries. The team's best shooting guard, Iman Shumpert, is out for the season with a knee injury. The team's starting power forward, Amar'e Stoudemire, is out indefinitely after punching a fire extinguisher and lacerating his hand.
It would be up to Lin, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler. Really, just adding Steve Novak and J.R. Smith to that lineup would give New York its only five productive players right now. And even they managed to beat Miami, they'd have to do it three more times to advance.
Not a likely scenario. But it sure would be fun to see those players back together on the court one more time this season to give it a try.