New York Knicks G Jeremy Lin: From Bench Warmer to Breakout Star

Josh GrellerContributor IIIFebruary 7, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 31:  Jeremy Lin #17 of the New York Knicks drives past Detroit Pistons Walker Russell #23 of the Detroit Pistons at Madison Square Garden on January 31, 2012 in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Jeremy Lin proved Monday that his 25 points coming off the bench two nights earlier were no fluke.

Coach Mike D'Antoni put him in the starting lineup against Utah at Madison Square Garden, and he delivered a career-high 28 points and eight assists in a 99-88 win.

And he led a Knicks team that was without its two biggest superstars.

Amar'e Stoudemire missed the game after learning his brother had been killed in a car accident, and his return is unknown at the moment. Carmelo Anthony left the game after just six minutes with a groin injury.

That left Lin to lead the charge with a band of oddly assembled players. Steve Novak dropped 19 points on the Jazz in just 17-plus minutes after hitting five three-pointers

At 10-15 and without their two most popular players, the Knicks and their fans seem refreshed and excited about the upcoming slate of winnable games.

Only four of the Knicks' 11 remaining games this month are against teams with winning records. One of those, the L.A. Lakers, are just 3-9 on the road and the Knicks play them at Madison Square Garden on Friday.

Lin has been the clear catalyst of the recent turnaround, as evidenced by loud chants from the MSG fanbase. They have a reputation of turning very critical very quickly.

But Lin has endeared himself to them in the matter of two games.

His success is bittersweet for fans in the Bay Area. Lin, who went undrafted in 2010, rode pine for the Golden State Warriors last season.

He displayed flashes of the talent now on display for everyone, but those moments came in spurts of garbage time during his stint in Oakland.

Warriors fans were clearly behind him, but Lin was never given a chance to make a serious case for playing time. The Warriors quietly waived him before this shortened season began, as did the Houston Rockets—a team he never actually suited up for.

He scored 77 points for Golden State over the course of 29 games. In 11 games with the Knicks, he has scored 85 and is heating up at just the right time.