The countdown to Jeremy Lin has begun.
It starts with Jason Kidd saying that the Knicks won’t be “looking to embarrass” the Rockets point guard on Friday but instead will be focused on beating Houston.
The Knicks face Lin for the first time since the club’s controversial decision not to match the three-year, $25 million offer the guard received from Houston last July. At the time, Carmelo Anthony called the offer “ridiculous,” and J.R. Smith later surmised that had the Knicks matched the offer, it would have created tension in the locker room.
Clearly, there are hard feelings on both sides, and that has fueled speculation that some Knicks, who might have resented Lin’s popularity last season, will enter Friday’s game intent on making life miserable for the Rockets’ new point guard.
“We’re not looking to embarrass or lock anybody down,” Kidd said. “We’re looking to win on the road. Whatever we have to do to make it tough for Houston, that’s what we have to do. But individually, you win and lose as a team. There’s no individual here. We’re an older team so we’re not going to fall into that trap.”
Of course, Kidd had two memorable run-ins with Lin last season during the height of “Linsanity” when Kidd was the Mavericks’ point guard. In their first meeting, Lin had 28 points and 14 assists in a nationally televised victory at the Garden.
One month later, the Mavs held Lin to half of that output, and Kidd nearly put Lin out of the game with a hard foul. The play started with Lin driving past Kidd, who took a wild swipe and hit Lin in the head. Mike D’Antoni argued for a flagrant foul, which seemed to be the proper punishment. Kidd, however, avoided being penalized for sending a forceful message.
Just three months later, Kidd, who like Lin was raised in northern California, signed with the Knicks and sounded excited about possibly becoming a mentor. That plan changed when the Knicks, upset that Lin went back to the Rockets to have his original offer increased, decided to acquire Raymond Felton.
When reminded of what he said in July, Kidd replied: “It would’ve been great. His name changed to Ray Felton so I would have done the same thing with (Lin). I’m happy to have Ray and Ray has run with it. He’s the engine. He’s doing extremely well with everything. I’m hoping I’m helping Ray.”
Kidd was confronting his own past on Wednesday in Dallas. He would face the organization that drafted him and one that he helped win a title in his second tour with the Mavericks. Last July, Kidd backed out of a verbal agreement with the Mavs and instead signed with the Knicks. Mavs owner Mark Cuban publicly criticized Kidd and has even threatened not to hang the guard’s number from the rafters.
“Whatever it may be, I’m here in New York,” Kidd said. “So there’s nothing I could do. I’m happy with my decision. I’m trying to help these guys win a championship. I had a great run in Dallas, but this is business and you have to move on.”
Lin has done the same with his career, and the Rockets took some pressure off of their young point guard by acquiring James Harden on the eve of the regular season.
But when Lin sees his former teammates, Anthony and Smith included, it should conjure up some good memories and perhaps some hard feelings. Whether hard fouls are included remains to be seen.
“Come Friday we will have to play hard because Houston plays hard,” Kidd says, “and they’ve got a pretty talented backcourt.”