Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Jeremy Lin makes his return to Madison Square Garden on Monday night to face a first place Knicks team that may be without Carmelo Anthony.
All eyes will be on Jeremy Lin Monday night as the Houston Rockets make their one trip to Madison Square Garden. Lin, of course, burst onto the scene last winter with the New York Knicks, taking over the NBA and sports world with the "Linsanity" phenomenon. He was previously a scout team and end of the bench guard who bounced around the league before getting a shot with Mike D'Antoni and the Knicks. Linsanity lasted little more than month before the Harvard alum was injured and finished the season in street clothes. D'Antoni was eventually fired, and Lin signed with the Rockets as a restricted free agent this summer in a chaotic back-and-forth with the Knicks. James Dolan opted to eventually not match Daryl Morey's offer, and now Lin will return to the scene where he became famous, and was adored by the Knicks faithful.
With the new hefty contract in tow, Lin has had an up-and-down season with the Rockets, playing alongside James Harden in Kevin McHale's backcourt. Lin is shooting below 40 percent from the field, and just 31.7 percent from three-point range. With Harden as the team's featured scorer, Lin is not filling it up quite like he did in that burst with the Knicks. Both guards typically need the ball in their hand to do their best work on the offensive end, and Harden is the max player and clear No. 1 option in Houston. But Lin did go off for 38 points just one week ago, matching his career high set last year. After some of the back-and-forth with Dolan this summer, Lin will surely be motivated to put on another show at MSG and it's likely the Rockets let him get his shots in on Monday night.
So far, it's hard to say the Knicks have missed Lin, with Mike Woodson's team jumping out to an Eastern Conference best 18-5 record. The Knicks are fourth in the league at 103.2 points per game, and the duo of Jason Kidd and Ray Felton, both acquired this summer, have filled in nicely at the point guard spot. Felton has rebounded from his miserable season in Portland and is averaging 16.3 points per game, the second-highest in his career. The Kidd signing was widely panned, but the 39-year-old is shooting better than 48 percent from three-point range -- a ridiculous mark on a team hitting three-pointers at an amazing rate.
The Knicks, however, may have to face Lin without leading scorer Carmelo Anthony, who injured his left ankle in the win over the Lakers on Thursday. Anthony collided with Dwight Howard in the air and fell awkwardly on top of his left leg, which bent back underneath him. Anthony sat out on Saturday against the Cavaliers and is a game-time decision on Monday.
Lin got his opportunity in New York last year while Melo was injured, and the unheralded prospect certainly stole all the team headlines during the Linsanity period. Melo, who called Lin's contract with the Rockets "ridiculous" this summer, is likely just as motivated take the floor at MSG and face his former teammate as the scoring leader of his first place team. It appears, however, that we won't know whether Melo will be able to give it a go until close to tip. The game will certainly lose some luster if Carmelo can't go, but the big story will be Lin and his return performance at MSG.
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
National broadcast: NBA TV