Jeremy Lin doubts first-round return

NEW YORK -- Point guard Jeremy Lin said his knee rehabilitation is going well, but he doesn't expect to play in the first round of the playoffs, if the Knicks qualify.

"I think unless something goes really well I wouldn't get there," Lin said before Sunday's Knicks-Bulls game.

Lin underwent surgery Monday to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. He's been walking and riding a bike and hopes to have a full range of motion soon.

The second-year guard hesitated to predict he'd be back sooner than six weeks, which was the original timetable provided by the Knicks, who entering Sunday stood a half-game in front of the Bucks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

"All the doctors are saying this is normal," said Lin, who hopes to resume running next week. "After about 1½ to 2 weeks is when you can see how well you're doing."

Lin doesn't want to rush his return to the court. He also didn't want to risk hurting the team's chemistry if he returned in the middle of the playoffs.

"I want to get to 100 percent and then come back, hopefully see what I can do. By then it'll be a different team identity, chemistry, so it gets tricky, too," Lin said.

A telling sign in Lin's recovery will be when he starts to cut laterally and jump.

"I'm trying to be cautiously optimistic I guess," said Lin, who will not travel with the team this week.

The surgery last week put a pause on Lin's storybook season.

New York signed the undrafted guard and former Harvard standout after he was waived by two teams in the preseason. Lin was buried on the Knicks bench for his first six weeks with the team, even spending a short stint with the Knicks' D-League affiliate. But given a chance to play in late February, he led New York to seven straight wins and attracted worldwide attention in the process.

Lin played extensive minutes once he took over as the Knicks starter. He said on Sunday that the condensed schedule created wear and tear on his knee.

"Really, that's what it was because the games came so fast. Playing three, four games a week, there was really never a week except for All-Star," said Lin, who logged 35.1 minutes per game in February and 30.8 minutes per game in March after playing just 24 total minutes in his first month with the team.

Lin will be a restricted free-agent next season. The Knicks are expected to be able to match any offer to Lin, due to a clause in the collective bargaining agreement. Some have speculated that New York would also make a run at Steve Nash, who is expected to test free agency.

On his pending free agency, Lin said: "We'll talk to them on July 1. I'm restricted, too, so that puts another element to it. I'm just going to let it happen the way it's supposed to happen and not going to worry about it too much right now."

Lin did say that he'd take a different approach to the offseason now that he knows he'll play extended minutes.

"We're already creating the plan to get my legs ready and my back," Lin said. "... Hopefully next year is going to be a lot different in terms of my body being able to maintain energy at a higher level."

Ian Begley is a regular contributor for ESPNNewYork.com.