On January 20, the Knicks probably played their worst game of the year. They lost, at home, 100–86 to the Milwaukee Bucks, and the outcome was never in doubt. Amar'e Stoudemire stumbled into five turnovers, the offense was a disorganized mess, Iman Shumpert flailed about in an attempt to impersonate a point guard, and Seth from Posting and Toasting (and here, of course) compared the experience of watching the Knicks to eating a cactus. The team was 6-9, and it was only going to get worse. The Knicks weren't at their nadir yet, but it was in sight.
That very night, six hours north, in Portland, Maine, the Erie Bayhawks played the Maine Red Claws in an NBA Development League game. It was a "special" occasion for the Bayhawks, who were welcoming in two players from the "big-league" club, the Knicks. Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni, when announcing the players would be heading to Erie, said, “They’ll be back pretty soon. There’s not enough practices. They were just sitting there. We do want them to play and be in game condition in case you need them. This is the perfect time to do it now.” That probably didn't make either player feel better. No one wants to be in the NBA and be sent down to the minors.
The two players were with the team for roughly two weeks, but one of them appeared in two games and the other made it into only one. The one game they both played in was January 20, the night of that Knicks loss, the night of the cactus-eating. Your starting center was Jerome Jordan, who had made it into six games with the Knicks, scoring four points twice. And your starting point guard was Jeremy Lin, recently claimed on waivers from the Houston Rockets. He had made it into five games. He'd only scored four points once.
Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog wrote a terrific post last night detailing how all this went down, how the Knicks made the decision to send Lin down and then bring him back up, how Lin bonded with his Bayhawks teammates despite playing only one game, how similar the Erie offense is to the Knicks offense, how the main reason the Knicks brought Lin back from Erie after the game was because they wanted to make sure to have enough players with which to practice. But for now, let's focus on the game itself.
The Bayhawks beat the Red Claws 122–113 — oh, for the scores of the D-League! — and the superstar, without question, was Lin. In 44 minutes, Lin dominated, scoring 28 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and dishing out 12 assists. That's right: Lin, in his one game in the D-League, notched a triple double. (Jordan actually had 26 points and eight rebounds himself. You might also remember former St. John's player Justin Brownlee, who scored 11 points for the losing Red Claws.)
Through the magic of technology, you can actually watch highlights of the game. They will look very familiar to anyone who has watched Lin's five games at the helm of the Knicks. Slashing hesitation moves to the basket, drop step jumpers, incessant, repeating pick-and-rolls. Lin looked exactly like he does now. That was only 24 days ago. The difference now is that he's doing this against Kobe Bryant and Ricky Rubio rather than Xavier Silas and Jerome Randle. Since January 20, Lin has simply just not stopped.