D’Antoni, Lin’s coach in 2012 during his ascendant streak, gave the initial comment based on the Harvard product’s previous play when he said he didn’t think Lin didn’t play very well during garbage time of a Knicks game against the Golden State Warriors.
“I definitely didn’t. I wish I could say, ‘Oh yeah,’” D’Antoni told Redick and co-host Tommy Alter when asked if he could see what Lin would become. “Matter of fact, Jeremy came up to me on Thursday.”
“He walks up to me. He goes, ‘Hey, coach. I have my car on the West Coast. Should I bring it to the East Coast?’” D’Antoni recalled, laughing. “I said, ‘Oh, I don’t know, Jeremy. I don’t think so; let me get back to you on that one.’”
D’Antoni decided to give Lin a shot after his coaching staff, particularly Kenny Atkinson and his brother, Dan D’Antoni, encouraged Mike to give Lin a shot. When the coaching veteran did so, Lin became the first Taiwanese American to come off the bench and score 25 points and dish seven assists in a Feb. 2012 game against the Nets.
Lin scored 130 points in his first five career starts and made a disappointing 2011-2012 campaign more bearable before the eventual-champion Heat dispatched the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs. With the encouragement of his assistant coaches, Kenny Atkinson and Dan D’Antoni, his brother, Mike D’Antoni, decided to give Lin a shot.
“He came in, and we opened things up, and that was it. I mean, it exploded. He was unbelievable,” D’Antoni said. “We went on to win like eight in a row, and he made a couple of game-winning shots. The camaraderie, the chemistry of the team, was off the charts. And it was fun. It was a great ride.”
During an appearance on The Ringer podcast, Lin credited D’Antoni for the significant role he played in “why I played so well.” during his historic streak of play.
“I had this coach that was empowering me, constantly in my ear telling me ‘Go, go, go. Trust your instincts,’” Lin said on the podcast. “A big part of Linsanity was just being in that environment, being in a pick-and-roll system that suited my style, and having coaches around just being like, ‘Look, we trust you, we know that you’re going to make the right play more times than you won’t. Let it fly.’”
The 33-year-old is now playing for the CBA’s Beijing Ducks.