But the franchise has enjoyed a rebirth with the emergence of "Linsanity."
"When you haven't won a playoff series in 10 years, they've been starving for this," Nets coach Avery Johnson said when asked about Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin.
"Linsanity" was born on Feb. 4 against Johnson's Nets. An unknown then, Lin came off the bench, exploited the Nets in the pick-and-roll and went for 25 points and seven assists. He has started every game since, leading the Knicks to a 7-1 mark as a starter.
Don't compare Lin to Steve Nash -- another Mike D'Antoni point guard -- just yet, though.
"I've heard a lot of different stories. I even got a question from my daughter whether Lin was in Nash's category. We don't wanna go there. It’s only been nine games," Johnson said. "Give the kid a chance. It's a great global story and he's inspiring a lot of kids, but let's give the kid a chance to play a whole season, maybe even a playoff series before we put him in the Nash category."
The Nets are the first team to see Lin a second time. So is that an advantage?
"Last game [against Dallas] on ball screens they went big on him quite a bit with [Shawn] Marion, and that didn't slow him down that much," Johnson said. "So again, he's obviously seen switches, you've seen teams play him one-on-one and forcing him to score. So he's seen quite a few defenses. But hopefully it's an advantage for us since we've seen him so we know what we're dealing with."
And playing well in D'Antoni's system?
"Systems sometimes can be overrated. Let's give the kid credit," Johnson said. "Mike's had a pretty good system ever since he was in Phoenix, but your system works a lot better when he's playing the way he's playing. So let's give the kid some credit, but also let's give guys like [GM Donnie] Walsh credit who survived and turned this thing around bringing in Melo and Amare."
• As expected, center Brook Lopez is inactive. He seemed upset about it before the game, but Johnson said there was no chance he could talk his way into the lineup. The 23-year-old will play on Wednesday against Orlando. Shelden Williams will start in his place.
But if you think this current run is as good as it gets for Miami, Wade explains why you should think again, and why his team is fine with flying relatively under the Lin-sanity radar.
MIAMI - Apparently, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was so focused on his job Sunday that he didn't notice former President Bill Clinton sitting courtside for Miami's victory against the Orlando Magic.
Clinton, who was a guest of Heat owner Micky Arison, caught a ball that sailed out of bounds, was presented a No. 42 Heat jersey with his name and also received a standing ovation when he was shown on the giant screen above the court - all during the game.
Yet Spoelstra insists he was oblivious to it all, and didn't know Clinton was in the building until he spoke with the media after the game. Spoelstra's reaction drew laughter in the press room.
"I didn't know," Spoelstra said after the Heat's 90-78 victory. "Is he still here? Do I have a chance to shake his hand?"
Spoelstra's best line came immediately after, when said he was surprised Clinton chose to attend the Heat game instead of Sunday's earlier nationally televised game in New York between global media sensation Jeremy Lin's Knicks and the Dallas Mavericks.
In essence, Clinton had Heat fever instead of Linsanity. But the Knicks visit the Heat on Thursday for their final games before the All-Star break.
"I'm surprised he's not at one of the games up north, the earlier game," Spoelstra joked. "That seems to be the hot game right now."
But then things changed.
"I was supposed to go to New York for Jeremy Lin, but then Linsanity happened," James, who had previously been waived several weeks ago by the Bulls, said with a smile after Friday's practice. "Everything happens for a reason. Because I'm from New York, it would have been great to go back home. It would have be great to be in Madison Square Garden, a place that I grew up going to, but at the same time, God has plan and purpose and it wasn't meant for me to be there."
James, who has since been re-signed by the Bulls, holds no ill will towards the Knicks’ rookie guard.
"It's great," James said of Lin's accomplishments. "It's great for basketball. It's great for him. I hope that he continues to have success. I think that what he's doing out there -- it's amazing, coming from nowhere. I always say there's only a handful of stars that are born. The rest of them are made. There's not too many LeBron Jameses, Derrick Roses, Dwight Howards. The rest of them, you have to find your path ... in success. [Lin] was able to make success for himself."
Lin has set the basketball world on its ear over the past two weeks, averaging 13 points and five assists in 16 games this season. He has started six games and is a major reason why the Knicks are currently on a seven-game winning streak.
"Once you start getting the fans behind you, and once the media starts loving you, then they're the ones that turn you into a star," James continued. "As long as you continue to keep having success in the game, and you continue to keep doing the things that have gained you success, well then the fame [and] the stardom will keep growing for you."
James, a very religious man himself, is most impressed by the fact that Lin has stayed true to his faith.
"The one thing I respect about him more than anything is that he's not ashamed or embarrassed to talk about his faith," James said. "Which is definitely something that I tip my hat off to him about more than anything else."
Harvard's Jeremy Lin, playing his ninth game with the New York Knicks earlier this month, logged a mere 6 minutes, 36 seconds of court time against Boston, missing all three shots he took while chipping in a pair of free throws, two rebounds, and an assist as the Celtics emerged with a 91-89 triumph on Feb. 3.
The very next night, Lin produced 25 points and seven assists over 36 minutes against the New Jersey Nets, got elevated into the starting lineup, and, well, he's been dominating SportsCenter -- and, more recently, non-sports programming as well -- as the biggest story in the NBA this season.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted he hasn't seen much of Lin beyond the highlights and the Garden glimpse earlier this month, but he certainly knows what it's like to be a point guard playing on the big stage in the Big Apple.
"It’s New York," Rivers said while discussing the circus-like atmosphere that currently exists around Lin, who handed out a career-high 13 assists to pace the Knicks to their seventh-straight win by topping Sacramento Wednesday evening. "Really, some place else, I don’t know if the attention would be as great. The accomplishment would still be great, but I don’t know if the attention would be as great. Let’s just be honest, what’s making this whole story great is the winning streak. They are winning games while he’s doing this. If he was doing the same numbers and it was all losses, we wouldn’t talk about it.
"It’s a good thing; It’s a good lesson for everyone: If you want some attention, go win."
Like his players, Thibodeau can appreciate Lin's success because of the way the young point guard worked even when people tried to write him off.
"I think people knew about him," Thibodeau said. "He was on a few teams. He did well in the summer league his rookie year and sometimes a guy just needs an opportunity. I think he's gotten better along with his experience, and he's in a good situation. I think Mike D'Antoni is a terrific coach, and he's used him extremely well."
Bulls' forward Carlos Boozer is just one of many players around the NBA who can appreciate the types of hurdles that Lin has had to overcome to prove he belongs in the league.
"He's playing great," Boozer said. "They're winning. He's doing a great job Taking advantage of his opportunity, making a lot of shots, making their team go right now. I've been impressed."
From a distance, it's clear Thibodeau appreciates Lin's work ethic. Not only does Thibodeau like the Harvard connection, but he is happy for a kid who made the most out of the chance he was given.
"I think it's a combination of everything," Thibodeau said. "I think in this league, you have to show it all the time. It's a testament to him being ready. When he got the opportunity, he made the most of it."
Line of the day: "I told him he should sit me and Derrick out in practice and have them practice hard. That would be fun." -- Luol Deng, on discussing All-Star strategy with Thibodeau, who will coach the East team.
Line of the day, Part II: "I think if you're a championship caliber team you approach it that way. And that's what you shoot for. I think these players are not here by accident. We went after them because of their makeup." -- Thibodeau, on if he's ever been around a more focused group.
Everyone ... except D-Will.
"Why would we get excited about the Knicks?" Nets point guard Deron Williams replied when asked about Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin on Wednesday morning. "We're 8-21. I’m worried about us, not what the Knicks are doing."
So, does all the attention the Knicks are getting bother him?
"They're the Knicks," Williams replied.
And the fact that Lin's rise to prominence began against the Nets?
"Y'all got anything about [our game]?" Williams asked. "Anything that's relevant with us?"
Williams said he didn't see Lin's last-second, game-winning 3-pointer against the Raptors on Tuesday night because he hasn't watched TV since he was playing overseas in Turkey.
Williams vs. Lin Part II will take place on Monday night at MSG.
• Shawne Williams (mild sprained left shoulder) will miss Wednesday night's game against Memphis.
He is visiting the doctor, and coach Avery Johnson didn't know how he suffered the injury.
Veteran DeShawn Stevenson, who has missed the last two weeks with a sore right knee, will start, Johnson said.
"We've definitely missed him," Johnson said. "We've missed his energy and his experience. Here's a guy who knows how to play the game."
Johnson said he doesn't know if Stevenson will play "40 minutes," but he should see plenty of time at the 3 with Shawne Williams unavailable.
Stevenson will be assigned to guard Grizzlies scoring wing Rudy Gay.
Johnson said the Nets will be careful to monitor his minutes with a string of six games in eight nights coming up.
• So, D-Will, what's up with all these injuries? One day it’s someone. The next day, it’s someone else.
"I told you guys, that's Avery Johnson and his 'New Orleans Voodoo,'" Williams joked.
• Center Mehmet Okur (lower back) remains out. The team will update his status on Saturday. As was already reported, center Brook Lopez is out at least through Thursday. The team will update his status on Friday.
CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose knows a thing or two about sound point-guard play.
"Jeremy, he’s playing, man," Rose said. "He’s playing well and with a lot of confidence. Like I always say, that’s all you need in this league is confidence. He definitely has that. His teammates believe in him and I like him as a player.”
Having been stuck on the bench for the past two games because of back spasms, Rose has also seen certain things about his own team that have caught his eye.
“I see that we play hard," he said. "When you sit out, you see a lot of things that you don’t see [when you’re playing]. Seeing the Boston game, if I was playing in the game, I thought we would have been playing hard too. But sitting out, our energy wasn’t there. We needed someone to feed off of. Don’t get me wrong, they were playing kind of hard but we needed someone to give us a little bit of energy. That’s something we didn’t have last game.”
So when will Rose be back on the floor?
“I can’t give you a certain date or let you know when I’m going to be back," he said. "But it should be shortly.”
Would Jeremy Lin and the Knicks give the Bulls problems in the playoffs?
Those are two of the topics our panel tackles in 3-on-3.
1. Fact or Fiction: Derrick Rose should not play in the All-Star Game
Scoop Jackson: Fiction: Rose needs to be in Orlando and hear his named called during the introductions. Playing in the game battling for MVP honors with a bad back would not be smart, but breaking a sweat and breaking Russell Westbrook or CP3‘s ankle while they are trying to guard him for the helluv it is worth it. How many minutes he plays will be up to Thibs once he gets the nod as East head coach. Plus, Rose needs to at least be there to share the maybe once-in-a-career experience with Deng.
Melissa Isaacson: Fact: Even if the rest and treatment Rose is now receiving puts him in a playable condition come All-Star weekend, the Bulls should highly discourage it and Rose should listen. It's easy to feel for him. Rose loves to play in the All-Star Game and that's but one of the reasons he is so popular with fans. Also, for business purposes, the many companies he represents will no doubt exert as much friendly pressure as they can for him to play. But these are special circumstances and it's not worth the risk that even the slightest tweak will set him back again. If it were up to me, I wouldn't let Rose make the trip at all, even to shake hands -- why sit on a plane, sleep in a hotel bed and stiffen up on the bench?
Nick Friedell: Fiction: The All-Star Game is an exhibition. All anybody does is run up and down the floor. No player is really exerting himself. If you'll recall, there were a lot of people who didn't want Rose to play in his first All-Star Game a couple years ago in Dallas because he had fallen hard after taking a shot from Dwight Howard right before the break and bruised his hip. He ended up being fine. If he's well enough to play in a week, he'll be well enough to run up and down the floor for 20 minutes in the All-Star Game.
2. Fact or Fiction: Bulls can't get by Boston without Derrick at 100 percent.
Fact: Especially if the Celtics are at full strength. More than other teams, the Celtics may benefit from the crazy sporadic-ness of the season. The shorter the season, the better for them. Time breaks them down not games played. If the Bulls are without Rose, Rajon Rondo will have a series of games just like the one he had on Sunday. He won't mess around and get triple-doubles, he'll make them the norm. As long as the Celtics have their core and Doc Rivers is their coach they are going to be one of the toughest outs in the league. As we say on the block: They ain't no punks. The Bulls need all hands, wrists, feet, legs, etc. on deck against them. Or else, the Bulls will catch the same fate the Knicks caught last year against the C's once their point guard went down.
Melissa Isaacson:Fiction: They almost did the other day in Boston and in a game much more important for the Celtics to win than the Bulls. With Rose even close to full-strength -- and obviously the Bulls are counting on him being 100 percent come playoff time -- the Bulls are clearly a superior team. Another factor: the ancient Celtics are bound to show more wear-and-tear by then than a team like the Bulls.
Nick Friedell: Fiction. Rose doesn't have to be feeling great, he just has to play. It would be a long series, but the Bulls would have enough depth and talent to push past Boston in the end. Now if Rose can't play at all, then things may be different. The Celtics have done a good job on Luol Deng and they decided (at least last Sunday) to let C.J. Watson beat them from the outside. He couldn't do it. If Rose plays, even at 75 percent, he still has the ability to break down defenses and get open looks for his teammates. The Bulls will be fine as long as he can be on the floor.
3. Fact or Fiction: Jeremy Lin and the Knicks can give the Bulls trouble in the playoffs.
Scoop Jackson:Fiction: Only saying this because we have not seen the “ShaoLIN” Knicks at full-roster strength to see 1) how Mike D'Antoni is going to make this work 2) if he can make it work with his newfound savior at the point and the return of the $200M duo of Melo and Amar'e or 3) if Baron Davis proves to be the most dangerous sixth man in the playoffs next to James Harding. If things fall in place for the Knicks and they are able to establish some chemistry and continuity and win their division, then the answer above changes. Not that the Bulls won't win the series, but a 10-deep Knicks team on a roll with nothing to lose come playoff time could be nothing but trouble.
Melissa Isaacson: Fact: The Knicks were capable of giving the Bulls a run in the playoffs before the Jeremy Lin phenomenon. But giving them a little trouble and getting past them are two different things, and even with Lin, the Knicks are still not the team the Bulls are. Yes, Lin is a great story right now, but let's not get too carried away too soon. By the postseason, opponents -- and particularly Tom Thibodeau -- is likely to have a better handle on how to stop a player no one was prepared to play. And that's providing that Lin doesn't run out of steam on his own by then.
Nick Friedell: Fiction. The Bulls are deeper than the Knicks and they play much better defense. Those two factors would overwhelm the Knicks in a seven-game series. Sure, the Knicks have Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudamire, and Lin is definitely playing well -- but the Bulls have Rose and they have a defense that adapts well over the course of a game. The Knicks are a good story, the Bulls are a great team.