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D'Antoni: Lin sets up guys for easy shots

JAIME C. HARRIS Special to the AmNews | 2/10/2012, 1:33 p.m.

Jeremy Lin may not be Roy Hobbs, the mysterious protagonist of the classic movie "The Natural," who emerges seemingly out of nowhere to become a baseball icon. However, the 23-year-old second-year point guard from Harvard has dramatically become a cult hero in New York.

Lin's ascendance as a floor leader for the Knicks has come as the team desperately needs someone to be a galvanizing force in the midst of trying times. When the Knicks faced the Washington Wizards on the road last night (Wednesday), they went into the nation's capital 10-15, urgently attempting to claw their way out of a deficit.

The Knicks were building momentum after winning back-to-back games at home on Saturday and Monday in large part due to Lin's unlikely performances, as he set career highs in points against the New Jersey Nets (25) and Utah Jazz (28). Most importantly, he has run the team better than any Knick guard to date, compiling a combined 15 assists against the Nets and Jazz.

Going up against the Jazz, Lin directed the Knicks without Amar'e Stoudemire, whose brother died in an auto accident, and Carmelo Anthony, who strained his groin in the first quarter. Tomorrow (Friday), Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers come to town, and they will find that Lin has deservedly supplanted promising rookie Iman Shumpert as the Knicks' starting point guard.

"Under Jeremy's direction, he's able to set up guys for easy shots and play the way we like to play," said Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni after a 99-88 win over the Jazz.

The excitement inspired by Lin is understandable. One of the Knicks' most glaring weaknesses this season has been the absence of someone to bring cohesion to the offense. Lin has done so with the poise and composure of a veteran.

"It's indescribable," said Lin, attempting to explain his rise. "Basketball is so fun when you play on a team when people want to work together and work though tough times and want to overcome them." Lin should know. After a stellar career at Harvard, he had stops with the Golden State Warriors and the NBA Developmental League. For now, he seems settled in New York.

"I'm excited," admitted D'Antoni. "I don't want to get too far ahead, but he does give some semblance of a team that can move the ball."