Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 2/25/12
ORLANDO, Fla. There was a moment during the firsthalf of Friday night's Rising Stars Challenge when Jeremy Lin's whirlwind Februarytruly came full circle. His parents were featured on the Amway Center kiss cam. A month ago, Lin, the Knicks phenom who has become the biggest story inbasketball seemingly overnight, had been demoted again to the D-League, andthe Harvard economics grad was giving serious thought to giving up onbasketball altogether and moving onto the next chapter of his life.His All-Star weekend plans were certainly the farthest thingfrom his mind. But one golden opportunity, a tailor-made system, 12 games, 11 starts, ninewins and millions of new fans later, Lin had been added to the All-Star weekendlineup. An insatiable global thirst for his involvement wouldn't allow the NBAto keep him out of it. From the moment he landed in Orlando, there were throngsof fans and media hoping for a moment of his time. At Friday afternoon's media session, reporters peppered the Eastern and WesternConference All-Stars with as many questions about Lin as they could fit intothe allotted time. Lin jerseys and shirts could be spotted all over ChurchStreet in downtown Orlando in the hours leading up to tipoff. There was anationally televised pregame interview and the palpable buzz that followed inthe arena as fans waited for the Rising Stars game to get going. Then there they were, during a timeout with 7:24 left in the first half.Gie-Ming and Shirley Lin, staring at their cell phones on the league's largestvideo board while an overeager emcee urged them to smooch on screen apainfully awkward sign that Linsanity had truly reached a point of no return. It's a story that not even Walt Disney could have dreamt up. "I really didn't have a plan B, to be honest," Lin said of theuncertainty surrounding his future before he blossomed under Knicks head coachMike D'Antoni. "I wasn't sure. Obviously, I was thinking about three mainoptions: Overseas, D-League or to just take a break or give up basketball for awhile, and I just didn't know. I was just trying not to think about it. "I just said, 'If I get cut by the Knicks, I'll take a look at all that,but until then, I want to make sure I try to stay focused and not think aboutnegativity.'" But Lin doesn't need a plan B anymore, and it doesn't seem he'll ever need oneagain.The negativity? That's long gone. Since he checked into NewYork's Feb. 4 game against New Jersey and scored 25 points off the bench, Linhas averaged 22.6 points and 8.7 assists per game, leading New York to a 9-3record and solidifying his spot in the Knicks' starting lineup. Any past failureshad been absolved and long forgotten. Lin played just nine minutes Friday night in the Rising Stars Challenge, andwas held to two points and just a single assist, an alley-oop lob from the topof the key to a cutting Blake Griffin, which drew one of the loudest cheers ofthe night. From a practical standpoint, however, it was probably best that Linhardly played. He had just come off of back-to-back games on Wednesday andThursday and neither performance was particularly inspiring. Thursday's showing, just eight points on 1-of-11 shooting in a 102-88 loss atMiami, showed that Lin is human, and suggested that maybe the rigors of agrueling NBA schedule were getting to the undrafted second-year player who hasalready played 222 more minutes this season than he did in his entire rookieyear. But even as Lin sat cheering from the bench, it was clear that Friday nightwasn't really about the game if you even want to call it a game which TeamChuck won 146-133. Friday night wasn't about Kyrie Irving's 34 points on 8-of-8 shooting from3-point range and 12-of-13 shooting overall or his team-high nine assists."It's never occurred in my career," said Irving,referring to his perfect 3-point performance. "It's kind of unfortunate ithappened in the All-Star Game."Friday night wasnt about Blake Griffin, who spent more timein the air than he did on the ground as he made amends for not participating inthe Dunk Contest. It wasnt about Minnesotas Ricky Rubio, who showed againstlittle to no defense why he's the best passer in the game. It wasn't about the nine players on Team Shaq who finished in double figures. Despite being the only player on Team Shaq not to score indouble figures, Friday night was about Lin and the fact that he was even inOrlando in the first place. During the start of the All-Star Weekend, the NBA hadto hold Lins news conference in a separate room because the number of mediamembers wanting to ask Lin questions was too large. "(It's surreal) just (to have) any press conference of my own, let aloneAll-Star Weekend," Lin beamed before the game. "Just to be here andto see the company and all the players that are here is just it's beenunbelievable, and I'm trying to take it all in and embrace it and enjoy itevery step of the way." Lin wasn't the most talented player in Friday night's game. He wasn't even thebest point guard on his own roster. Other stars from the game will go on tofind greater on-court success down the line. But none will do what Lin has done. None of them will unexpectedly breathe lifeinto a city and a game and rejuvenate a middling fanbase the way Lin has injust 12 games. "What I'm most impressed with Jeremy is when he got his opportunity, hedidn't just grab it he choked it by the neck," Team Shaq assistant coachSteve Kerr said. "He basically just took over that whole franchise, whichis stunning because it's New York and it's 'Melo and Amar'e. You've got stars,you've got the media capital of the world, and he just seized it and grabbed itand he's not letting it go." Lin needed a physical breather, and he received one Friday night, but he did itthe way only Lin knows how with rabid, unwanted fanfare and while unselfishlyputting his team first. "I'm definitely surprised that people are still talking about Linsanity orwhatever," Lin said. "I think hopefully as the season progresses, itwill go from that to New York Knicks.Hopefully the Knicks can win basketball games, we can makea good push after the All-Star break and people will start talking about theKnicks and not necessarily me." But even though he'd rather it wasn't, Linsanity will continue to be the story,even when Lin's play isn't. People are hungry for Lin, and they'll takewhatever they can get even if it's just the sight of his parents on the kisscam.
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