GREENBURGH, N.Y. >> Jeremy Lin has flawlessly handled Linsanity. Handling the ball has been tougher.
It was the Knicks’ first loss since Lin became the starter and an international sensation. All the hype, and seven straight wins, had prevented much attention on his mistakes. But when he coughed the ball up nine times Friday, tied for the most in the NBA this season, Lin put the blame on himself and perhaps gave the team reason for worry.
Not so, coach Mike D’Antoni said Saturday, insisting that Lin’s turnovers are “not even a concern” and that the ex-Harvard guard will be a quick study.
“I just want him to keep his mentality to not get hesitant, ‘Oh, I might turn it over,”’ D’Antoni said. “That’s OK. Risk it.”
Taking those risks led to some of Friday’s miscues. D’Antoni said Lin occasionally went for the “home run play,” rather than take a simpler option that may have been available, things they looked at on film Saturday.
“I mean he’s a level-headed kid. He’s not going to get down. He’ll take the blame, that’s what Steve Nash did all the time, ‘my fault,’ but he knows the next game is brand new,” D’Antoni said. “He’s playing better than he said he played.
“Twenty-eight (actually 26) points and five assists, you might say, ‘Oh, that’s not Linsanity,’ but for any NBA player that’s pretty good. Just too many turnovers.”
Lin has played fearlessly, particularly for someone who had no previous NBA success until two weeks ago. He took big fourth-quarter shots on national TV to beat Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, and calmly fired the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left that gave the Knicks a 90-87 victory in Toronto.
So he wasn’t going to let his first failure as an NBA starter linger too long.
“I’m going to keep my preparation the same. I’m OK moving onto the next game,” he said. “I’m going to make mistakes and have bad games, but that’s fine with me. I’m going to grow as a player, so I’m not too worried.”
Skeptics of Lin note the weakness of the Knicks’ schedule since Linsanity began, with only two winning teams among the seven games. The schedule gets real rugged before the All-Star break, including nationally televised games against Dallas on Sunday and Miami on Thursday.
The Mavericks made LeBron James look ordinary in the NBA finals, so they might have a field day against an undrafted player. Jason Kidd, still one of the league’s craftiest defenders, will probably have a few tricks for his fellow Northern California native.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tried to bring Linsanity to Dallas, bringing Lin in for summer league in 2010 and making him a guaranteed offer. But he said Lin preferred to play closer to home and eventually signed with the Warriors.
And Cuban, whose team has won six in a row, seems to be enjoying Lin’s breakout just like his many fans from New York to Asia.
“It’s great, it’s great for the league, so you’ve got to love it,” Cuban said. “And Jeremy Lin is a great kid, so I’m happy for him.”
Lin seems so focused on his basketball that he refuses to get caught up in the hoopla surrounding him. He didn’t know he was being added to the All-Star Rising Stars Challenge or even which team he ended up on — Shaq drafted him with the No. 3 pick for his squad — nor was he aware that Time Warner cable and MSG network had settled a dispute to put Knicks games back on TV in New York, a breakthrough that was clearly in response for cries to see Lin play.
So his teammates know he will do what it takes to clean up the sloppy play that has led to six or more turnovers in five straight games.
“He has a great basketball life ahead of him and great knowledge for the game, so all those are very correctable and minor mistakes,” fellow point guard Baron Davis said.
Davis expects to play this week for the first time this season, which could lead to a dilemma. He’s a former All-Star and was expected to be the starting point guard — and savior — when he was ready after a herniated disk in his back.
Instead, Lin seized both roles. D’Antoni strongly believes in him — he said he doesn’t think Lin has any weaknesses — and views him as the starter even when Davis is back. But if Lin has more struggles like Friday night, that opens the door for a change.
“Baron, we know how good he can be. If he’s that good, then it’ll be tough, but I think they’re both comfortable with whatever happens,” D’Antoni said. “And we just try to play for the best and the luxury is having two really good point guards, and that’s where we’re hoping to get to.”
AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Dallas contributed to this report.