Mike Cassese/REUTERSWhile Jeremy Lin has taken the NBA by storm

Mike Cassese/REUTERSWhile Jeremy Lin has taken the NBA by storm

Jeremy Lin leaves Warriors wondering ‘What if?’

‘This is unbelievable. I’ve never been part of something like this,” Jeremy Lin said. But not about becoming the toast of New York, about signing with the Warriors.

Hey, the young man had to start some place.

He was a curiosity, a hometown kid, an Asian-American, a Palo Alto High grad, a Harvard grad and he was off the bench now and then, when he wasn’t off the team, shuttled off to the D-League, as in Developmental.

He certainly developed. “Shows what hard work can do,” said the one-time Round Mound of Rebound, Sir Charles Barkley. “What a great lesson for everyone.”

Day after day, the back pages of the three New York tabloids — the Post, Daily News and Newsday — the only pages which matter to the sports fans in the sports town, have had nothing besides Jeremy Lin. “Va-LIN-tine’s,” was the headline in Tuesday’s Post.</p>

Newsday said “Lin-spired.” There’s been “LIN BEAR IT,” “May the Best Man Lin” and all sorts of other puns and word play, most of all “LIN-SANITY.”

Not to be confused with insanity, something the aching Warriors fan approaches as Lin throws, passes and scores points for, of all teams, the New York Knicks. Goodbye, Interstate 880. Hello, Broadway.

If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Other than at Oracle Arena. So painful.

“This is a dream come true,” were Lin’s words when he joined the Warriors on July 21, 2010. “I always wanted to be in the NBA, and now I get to do it with the Warriors, the team I grew up watching.”

Should it be mentioned Lin had a Latrell Sprewell poster on his bedroom wall and a Joe Smith jersey? No? All right, ignore those items.

Hindsight. The Warriors had then and still have Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. The game is played with one basketball. Lin is a driver, a feeder, a shooter. So is Ellis. At times, so is Curry. In effect, the W’s gave Lin his chance and then didn’t give him his chance. 

A review of life and timing, timing and life. The Knicks, desperate for a point guard because of injuries — think Baron Davis ever will get on the court again? — claimed Lin off waivers at the end of December. He sat until New York blew a fourth-quarter lead to the Boston Celtics on Feb. 3. Mike D’Antoni, the Knicks’ coach, went to Lin.

“He got lucky,” D’Antoni said, “because we were playing so bad.”

It’s 42nd Street all over again. Opportunity arises, understudy forced on to the stage and because of background and performance gets a standing “O.” And more importantly, the lead role the next night.

Lin played his high school ball across the street from Stanford, but had to go across the country to Harvard. UCLA only wanted him as a walk-on. Cornell didn’t even want him.

It wasn’t only the Warriors who failed to grasp what skills Lin brought to the basketball court, if that’s any solace to the team’s remarkably loyal fans (and it isn’t).

He was here, where he wanted to be, “a dream come true,” and now he’s there, on the back pages, on ESPN, a Bay Area player who became a wonderful story in a New York minute. What might have been.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.

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