Lin makes Knicks a story, but are they contender?

Jeremy Lin
Team Shaq, New York Knicks’ Jeremy Lin (17), drives to the basket during the NBA All Star BBVA Rising Stars Challenge basketball game in Orlando, Fla. Friday, Feb. 24, 2012. Team Chuck defeated Team Shaq 146-133. (AP Photo/Gary Bodgon, Pool)
Team Shaq, New York Knicks' Jeremy Lin (17), drives to the basket during the NBA All Star BBVA Rising Stars Challenge basketball game in Orlando, Fla. Friday, Feb. 24, 2012. Team Chuck defeated Team Shaq 146-133. (AP Photo/Gary Bodgon, Pool)

GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — Apart from all the Jeremy Lin headlines, the New York Knicks think they are a story, too.

While almost all the attention this month belonged to their point guard, the Knicks got Baron Davis back from injury, signed JR Smith and discovered Steve Novak, who had been sitting right next to Lin at the end of their bench.

Lin’s rise from undrafted Harvard grad to NBA star made him an international sensation, but he hopes the attention will switch from himself to his team.

“I mean, we’re unbelievably talented and you look on the headlines, you look on ESPN, you see ‘Lin this’ and ‘Lin that,'” he said Tuesday. “But we may be the deepest team in the NBA, so I think we should start talking about that as well.”

That depth will no doubt help Lin. He is not used to so many minutes and was clearly fatigued in his dismal game against Miami last Thursday. He shot 1 of 11 from the field, committed eight turnovers while looking overwhelmed against the Heat’s defensive schemes. He eight points and three assists in a 102-88 loss.

“I just thought he was tired, and the exact same plays Baron had no problem with and Jeremy shuffled a little bit,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He had a bad game and I think he was tired, and I think that was the first time he’s seen it. Baron’s seen that about a thousand times and that’s what happens.

“We have to understand that Jeremy’s an unbelievable story. He’s gone from nothing to a real good player in the league. But he is a rookie, this is the first time he’s seeing things, and now we’re talking about him getting to the level of a Steve Nash or Baron Davis or Russell Westbrook, or (Rajon) Rondo.”

Lin is actually in his second year, but he played so sparingly last season for Golden State he has the experience of a first-year player.

“So he’ll have a learning curve and there will be nights where he won’t look good, but I think he’s a very good player and we’re going to ride him and he’ll just keep getting better,” D’Antoni said.

Lin is refreshed now, playing just a few minutes in the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star weekend before heading off to a beach vacation with family. The rest will come in handy Wednesday, when he has to face No. 1 draft pick Kyrie Irving of Cleveland in the Knicks’ second-half opener.

New York is 17-18, having gone 9-3 with Lin in the rotation. Rookies Iman Shumpert (left knee tendinitis) and Josh Harrellson (broken right wrist) will return Wednesday, and Davis should start to find a shot that’s been missing in his first three games of the season following a herniated disk.

“We feel more confident now because Jeremy’s playing great at the point guard position. We were waiting on Baron to get back, Baron’s looking better and better and he’s working out hard, so we feel that we have enough on this team to win a championship,” forward Amare Stoudemire said. “We have the right personnel, the right players and the right mind frame, just a matter of us going out and playing the right way. And if we do that, we can do something special.”

Stoudemire would have to play much better than he did while averaging 17.5 points on 44.7 percent shooting, well off his career averages. He admitted he wasn’t in basketball shape after the lockout, when he added too much muscle after his workouts and grew to 260 pounds after playing at 245 last season. He said he’s down to 250 now and might drop a few more, and predicts a strong final 31 games.

“It’s going to be great. Every second half of the year, I have a tendency to turn it up because you know how important it is,” he said. “After the All-Star break, getting that momentum going to the postseason is always very, very key. You’re playing at your best going into the postseason, so it’s going to be an incredible second half of the year for me.”

Davis believes Stoudemire and the starters will get a big boost from the reserves, who he said can quicken the pace when they enter.

“We know we have the talent coming off the bench to make a difference, increase the lead and if we have the lead, expand on the lead. So our job is to bring that high energy,” Davis said. “When you look at the type of talent that we have coming off the bench, it’s scary to a lot of other teams that have to play us. So we want to use that to our advantage every time we step out on the floor.”

The Knicks have climbed to seventh in the Eastern Conference and trimmed struggling Philadelphia’s Atlantic Division lead to t 3½ games. Perhaps Lin is right and they are more than him.

Maybe they’re a contender.

“I think as a team we’re hungry, because we understand what we have. We understand that we have a chance if we get this thing right, if we can start building chemistry and go on a winning streak, we could be dangerous,” Lin said. “So that’s what our team’s focused on.”

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.