NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — The hottest team versus the hottest story.
Linsanity is on its way to Miami, and the Heat can finally say they’re eager for the arrival.
It may be the NBA’s marquee matchup so far this season, the phenomenon that is Knicks guard Jeremy Lin taking center stage in Miami on Thursday against the NBA-leading Heat in both sides’ finale before the All-Star break. Online ticket brokers reported Wednesday that the average price of a seat on the resale markets is about $600. Unless you want courtside seats, that is. They run about $8,000 — each.
“It’s not about Jeremy Lin versus LeBron James,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “It’s the Miami Heat versus the New York Knicks.”
And, sure, Heat-Knicks is a big deal. Always is, probably always will be, even though the teams’ run of four straight years of playoff knockdown-drag outs ended nearly 12 years ago. But the Lin story has already seemed to crank the intensity of the rivalry up several more notches, to the point where some Heat players and coaches have been getting asked about this particular matchup for more than a week already.
“It’ll be fun. And it’ll be a great experience, especially for Jeremy,” said Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony.
Most Heat players had been hesitant to talk about the Lin storyline, usually declining because there were other games on the schedule beforehand.
No more. When Miami finished off Sacramento on Tuesday night and the Knicks were officially the next order of Heat business, the questions — hardly any having to do with Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire or any other New York player — started coming in bunches.
“Who do we play?” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra asked with a sly grin.
“It’s the game right before All-Star,” James said. “But it won’t be like ‘that’ game before All-Star, like people are accustomed to. Everybody always says, you know, the game before All-Star, people are ready to get to All-Star weekend. I don’t think so. Just knowing the rivalry, knowing the history between the Heat and Knicks. It could be one of the most watched games we’ve had in a long time, especially with what Jeremy Lin is doing.”
“He’s a great player and a great defender,” Lin said of James. “So I just have to stay aggressive and not change anything on my end.”
A couple weeks ago, there was probably no one who thought James would be touting Lin as a reason to watch this game.
Lin has played against the Heat before, a short stint best described as unremarkable.
A missed shot, an offensive rebound, two assists and a steal. That’s what Lin managed against the Heat on Dec. 10, 2010, when he checked in for the final 3:20 of a blowout Miami victory against Golden State. He was inactive when the Warriors came to Miami three weeks later, and didn’t play on Jan. 27 when the Knicks visited the Heat and lost 99-89.
Linsanity started about a week later, when the point guard who was a career 12.9-point-per-game scorer at Harvard came off the bench and scored 25 points in a 99-92 Knicks victory over New Jersey. After Wednesday’s win against Atlanta at Madison Square Garden, New York — suddenly a strong playoff hopeful after a dreadful start — is 9-2 with Lin in the rotation.
“The kid deserves it, he’s worked hard, he’s a great story,” Wade said. “But for us, it’s another game — a big game — and a chance to get a win.”
“This is one of those fun games, competitive games, two of the top teams eying the championship,” said Stoudemire. “It’s going to be fun.”
Celebrities are expected in droves. Floyd Mayweather Jr., who caused a stir this month when he said on Twitter that the Lin hype is due to race, has tickets. Knicks superfan Spike Lee is almost certain to be courtside.
Rest assured, Lin won’t be the only star visiting Miami on Thursday night.
Oh, there’s even rumors that former President Bill Clinton — who watched the Heat beat Orlando on Sunday from a courtside seat — may be back Thursday. And President Barack Obama — a noted basketball fan — has some speaking engagements in nearby Coral Gables, Fla., on Thursday afternoon, wrapping up just a little while before Heat-Knicks will tip off.
“This will be a game that won’t require a lot of motivation, by either team,” Spoelstra said. “It’ll be good for the fans.”
Spoelstra and Lin are both Asian-American. Spoelstra is of Filipino descent, while Lin’s parents were born in Taiwan.
Miami will bring a seven-game winning streak and a 26-7 record into the game, both of those marks the best in the league. Each of Miami’s wins during that streak have come by at least 12 points, and the Heat have won 17 of their last 20 games overall. The Knicks are 17-17 entering Thursday.
Records rarely mean much in Knicks-Heat games, though.
“We love playing against them and they love playing against us,” Wade said. “I don’t have to pump it up. It’s going to be pumped up enough.”
Maybe that’s why the two Heat players who will spend much of their time guarding Lin on Thursday added little fuel to the fire when asked about the matchup.
“It’s a showdown. Everybody’s been hyping this game up,” Heat starting point guard Mario Chalmers said. “So it’s going to be a lot of fun. Crazy atmosphere. It’s not really personal. It’s team. Team on team. Heat versus Knicks.”
Added Heat backup point guard Norris Cole: “Definitely looking forward to it. I’ve heard about what he’s done. I’ve watched the highlights. I’ve seen some of the games. He’s produced. You’ve got to give the guy credit. He’s been playing very well.”
So have the Heat, of course.
Which means this one could be worthy of the hype.
“It’s going to be a lot of, a lot of anticipation about this game,” Anthony said. “We’re going down there to win. Miami is playing great basketball right now. One of the hottest teams, if not the hottest team in the NBA.
“It’ll be a great game.”
What’s your prediction for Knicks-Heat? Sound off below!
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)