Dan D’Antoni, a Knicks top assistant during “Linsanity,’’ calls Jeremy Lin’s rise during the 2011-12 campaign the second-coming of “Rocky.’’
Unfortunately, D’Antoni admits, “Rocky’’ got knocked out by Apollo Creed. In real life, that was Carmelo Anthony.
MSG Network is in the middle of “Linsanity Week” with nine epic games from the 2012 Lin-fest.
The Knicks won 10 of 13 contests with Lin, of Taiwanese descent, becoming a global icon.
But MSG won’t show what happened next, when Anthony came back from the injured list following a groin injury. The Knicks sputtered to a 2-6 clip with Anthony balking at a downsized role of letting the offense run through Lin — the way Steve Nash commandeered the Suns.
It led to the March 14th firing of head coach Mike D’Antoni, Dan’s brother, who wanted to keep the offense humming via Lin.
“We had won 10 of 13 games and Jeremy was the main propeller of the boat,’’ Dan D’Antoni told The Post. “But you can’t run Mike’s system – and I’m not blaming Carmelo. It was the way Carmelo’s game was at that time. He got his rep as a mid-range jump shooter.
“He had every right because he won a lot of games in Denver as an elbow-iso guy. But we had that elbow-iso guy (in Amar’e Soudemire). If you didn’t space the floor, it puts a halt to what Jeremy was doing. It went back toward Melo and it was a difficult situation.”
Indeed, the Anthony-Stoudemire tandem never became ideal.
“It was hard to blend everything,’’ D’Antoni said. “You have to have spacing. (Anthony) wanted to get back to that spot where he’d ask for the ball in a certain area. The offense Jeremy was running is more free flow, attacking off the pick and roll and kicking out to shooters. Two different styles. Mike had a hard time with it.
“They went one way,’’ D’Antoni added. “We went the other way.’’
And so ended arguably the best four-week stretch of the last 20 seasons. So many fans forget Lin wound up costing the D’Antonis their jobs.
There’s no longer bitterness — Dan D’Antoni resurrected the Marshall University basketball program, making the NCAA Tournament in 2018, and Mike D’Antoni made the Rockets a Western 3-point shooting beast, changing the way the NBA plays – pace and space.
The Knicks are on the way to seven straight seasons out of the playoffs, without a permanent coach.
“It wasn’t Melo’s fault because Amar’e’s there,’’ D’Antoni said. “You have to have real good support from the owner, to GM, to the coach, to the star players. If those three don’t line up, it’s difficult.’’
Dan D’Antoni treasures his Knicks’ time, especially Linsanity.
“You have an unknown player rise that quickly to that stature in New York with the New York fans being great,’’ D’Antoni said. “That atmosphere in MSG, you couldn’t get it any better. I cherish those moments. I came to games early on the road, stared up in the ceiling and thanked the Lord.”
The Knicks had signed Lin in December, 2011 to little fanfare. But the Knicks had major point-guard woes. Baron Davis was rehabbing a disk, Iman Shumpert had gone down with an ACL tear and Mike Bibby was on his last legs.
Mike D’Antoni will never take credit for the Lin idea. Kenny Atkinson, then a Knicks assistant, was Lin’s workout guy. Dan D’Antoni worked with the Harvard point guard in teaching him the D’Antoni way.
“My idea was to get players situated into playing the system he runs,’’ D’Antoni said. “I did the film work and Kenny was a big part of it. He and I were the ones convincing Mike. And I remember Allan Houston there for one of the practices fitting him in before we went to (Jeremy). He had the aptitude and belief in the system.’’
After playing just 55 minutes all season, Lin logged 36 against the Nets on Feb. 4, 2012.
The rest is Linsanity.
“He was on fire,’’ D’Antoni said. “It’s like you went to the horse race and saw the old broken-down mare beat all the stallions.”
“It’s hard sometimes when they let you go and there’s some feeling of ‘ha-ha’,’’ D’Antoni said. “At the same time, I try not to. The NBA needs New York. New York needs the NBA. I hated it didn’t work out because it was one of my favorite places to ever compete in. (Mike and I) were in Phoenix and LA. New York was the best, better than Phoenix even in its heyday.”
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