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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

'Linsanity' touches down in star-struck Canada

'Linsanity' slammed into hockey-mad Canada with the force of a winter storm as Jeremy Lin, the National Basketball Association's (NBA) newest sensation, set hearts aflutter with a Valentine's Day visit to the league's most northern outpost.

A game between two losing teams would not normally qualify as a must-see event but Lin, the anonymous benchwarmer turned NBA superstar in a week, made the New York Knicks' visit to the Toronto Raptors the hottest ticket in town.

Part of Lin's immense appeal is his made-for-Hollywood back story of sleeping on a team mate's couch one day and living the American dream the next.

The 'Linderella' story continued at the Air Canada Centre as the Taiwanese American stepped up and coolly dropped a three-pointer from the top of the arc with a half-second to play to stun the Raptors 90-87.

That spell-binding piece of magic gave the Knicks their sixth straight victory, with Lin the driving force after starting in the last five games.

On a day dedicated to love, Lin's last-minute heroics to cap an occasionally ragged performance gave Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni hope the 23-year-old might be set for a long-term relationship with the NBA, rather than the occasional one-night stand.

"He's a tough kid, you don't know that until you go into games with him," D'Antoni told reporters. He's really tough, mentally he's there.

"I have complete faith in him. He was pretty confident that was going in.

"He's a marked man now. He isn't going to sneak up on anybody."

Lin committed eight turnovers but with the game on the line he was again the Knicks go-to guy, scoring New York's last six points, including his long-range winner to finish with a game-high 27-points with 11 assists.

The first Taiwanese-American to play in the NBA, Lin's rise from obscurity to toast of the Big Apple is an extraordinary tale that is hard to resist.

The point guard from Harvard, a college better known as a springboard to the U.S. presidency than the NBA, went undrafted and was cut by Golden State and Houston before finding a place at the end of the Knicks bench in December.

MARKETING DREAM

Given his chance, Lin seized the NBA spotlight with both hands, and has inspired the Knicks with a string of stunning performances.

"You have to have luck in life ... he had an opportunity and took advantage of it," said D'Antoni. "There are a lot of NBA players who don't make it. Sometimes you get lucky.

"It's a great story, so enjoy it, hopefully it will last."

As the first ripples of "Linsanity" hit Asia, marketing men have rubbed their hands with glee as they contemplate a candidate to fill the very large shoes left by last year's retirement of Yao Ming.

But nowhere has the fascination been greater than New York, where Lin's No. 17 jersey is the NBA's top seller and shares of Madison Square Garden Co, owner of the Knicks, have shot to record highs.

Some experts say Lin has the potential to be a bigger marketing force than any current athlete, provided 'Linsanity' does not prove to be a passing fad.

"He is Tiger Woods before the scandal, I think he has everything going for him," Ronn Torossian, chief executive of 5W Public Relations, told Reuters. "If he can continue to deliver on the court his possibilities off the court are limitless.

"I don't think he needs to put up MVP numbers but I do think when you look at marketing greatness over the last few years, whether it is David Beckham, Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, let's not forget they were all winners.

"Before anything else he has to be a winner. If he is, I can't tell you if we have ever seen anything like this."

'IT'S A MIRACLE'

Certainly Raptors fans are not accustomed to seeing anything like it in Toronto, where such lavish attention is reserved for the NBA's elite.

The Raptors have fielded more media interest than for any other regular season game and Tuesday's contest marked just the second sellout of the season.

Coaches, team mates, fans and even Lin himself are at a loss to explain the sequence of events that took him from anonymity to one of the headline acts of the NBA.

Opposing defenses will be more interested in getting acquainted with Lin and searching for a cure for 'Linsanity.'

"I've been able to get away with some stuff but defenses are going to start locking in so I'm going to have to improve," said Lin, who averaged 26.8 points, 8 assists and 4.2 rebounds in his first five games. "If you look back at my story ... there are a lot of things that had to happen that I just couldn't control.

"I think it's a miracle because obviously I don't think anybody expected this to happen the way it happened."

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Tags:  New York  Knicks  Jeremy  Lin  


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