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Before New York, "Linsanity" Rooted In Reno Bighorns

Before blowing up with the New York Knicks, Jeremy Lin excelled in two stints with the Reno Bighorns during the 2010-11 season and was named to the D-League Showcase first team.
Before blowing up with the New York Knicks, Jeremy Lin excelled in two stints with the Reno Bighorns during the 2010-11 season and was named to the D-League Showcase first team.

This story isn't about "Linsanity".

This isn't about Jeremy Lin going undrafted out of Harvard, signing with the Golden State Warriors, being waived twice over by the Warriors and Houston Rockets, claimed by the New York Knicks and surviving another cut four days before transforming into the Messiah of Madison Square Garden.

This isn't about Lin becoming the Knicks' first player (along with center Jerome Jordan) to be assigned to their D-League affiliate, the Erie Bayhawks, last month or entering the league as the NBA's first American-born player of Taiwanese or Chinese descent or his open devout Christian faith.

This story isn't even about Lin blowing up this past week by scoring 89 points in his first three starts with the Knicks, featuring his latest miracle on Friday night in New York against the Los Angeles Lakers: a career-high 38 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and shooting 56.5% from the field.

Instead, the feel-good story of this NBA season is a testament to a young player's overall development in the D-League, deeply rooted in two stints during the 2010-11 season with the Reno Bighorns.

"He (Lin) is a great kid - fearless. He can get to the rim on anyone," former Reno and current Los Angeles D-Fenders head coach, Eric Musselman told Ridiculous Upside.

"I loved coaching Jeremy".

Like many rookies relegated to the D-League after starting the season on an NBA roster, Lin actually arrived in Reno a bit down on his luck. The word "demotion" lingered in his mind. He was assigned to Reno in late December 2010 after appearing in 17 games with the Warriors, averaging 1.9 points and 1.1 steals in 8.5 minutes per game. With playing time came production. In his first game, Lin finished with 10 points in roughly 18 minutes of action and two nights later dropped 20 points in 21 minutes. The encore took place over the next two games when Lin averaged 18 points per game -- he was aggressive and showed what he could do if given the opportunity.

"He was always the first one to practice and the last to leave. We played him at 1,2 and 3 and he never complained about what position he played. He is such a smart player and is great at playing pick and roll basketball."

After four games in Reno, the Warriors recalled Lin only to place him on the in-active list upon his return. It would be a short stay.

In mid-January of last year, Lin was named to the D-League Showcase first team and fell into a groove starting 8 games and leading the team in scoring with 17.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 32 minutes per game. Lin's development is also attributed to the Bighorns' coaching staff aside from Musselman. Aubrey McCreary, Phil Handy and Clay Moser all had a hand in helping in Lin's maturation process and as a unit, the coaching staff watched a lot of film on Lin before deciding how to best utilize his talents on the floor.

"In the D-League and as a staff you owe it to the players to improve their games and make them grow as players. With Jeremy the D-League helped his confidence explode," added Musselman, with McCreary (Cleveland), Handy (Los Angeles Lakers) and Moser (Lakers) all promoted to the NBA this season.

"Jeremy was awesome last year. He had a great attitude and played so well last year at the D-League Showcase. I was surprised he ever got waived."

Then there is the Jeremy Lin off of the court. It's hard not to think of the word "character" when talking about Lin and Musselman became a witness every time the team flew to away games.

"He would give his preferential seating on plane flights to teammates. NBA assignment players get first-class seats on flights and he always gave up his seats."

The Warriors eventually recalled Lin in early February of last season. And while he only ended up playing spot minutes to finish out the year at Golden State, a full year later Lin's stock has risen to the point where a return to New York for next season should already be in the works.

Still, there is always room to get better in this game and that goes for Lin too.

"He is improving as a shot maker and will keep getting better," said Musselman.

Thankfully for Lin the Bighorns were there to facilitate his growth and now the entire D-League can relish in how far Lin has come since those days in Reno.

"He's such a tough and great competitor."