‘Hart On Hoops’
By Sean Hartnett
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Jeremy Lin isn’t the only New York Knicks player to battle his way back to the NBA after being released and forced to pave his way through the D-League.
Steve Novak was a standout outside shooter even in his early days at Marquette University where he played alongside NBA-bound All-American junior Dwyane Wade as a freshman. It was apparent even at that age that Novak possessed a rare ability from beyond the arc.
During his senior year, Novak averaged 17.5 points per game and frequently torched Big East rivals such as UConn and Notre Dame. After being drafted by the Houston Rockets in 2006, he spent the next six seasons bouncing between part-time roles with various NBA teams and the D-League.
Now at 27, Novak has finally found a home in New York. His story isn’t all that different from the much-heralded Lin. Similar to Lin’s difficult journey, Novak was cut by multiple NBA teams but has flourished under the spotlight of Madison Square Garden. He’s taken his increased minutes and become a valuable role player for the Knicks.
Novak scored 9 points in the third quarter of Wednesday night’s encounter with the Cleveland Cavaliers and was able to continue that fire into the fourth quarter. He drained a three-pointer to open the fourth quarter and showed little signs of cooling off. Novak proceeded to hit 5 three-pointers off the bench and received a rousing ovation when he was replaced with 5:23 left in the fourth quarter.
“Novak did a phenomenal job tonight of getting hot. He’s ‘Super-Nova’ for real! He’s playing great for us,” Amar’e Stoudemire later told reporters postgame.
That ovation later gave way to chants of “We want Novak, we want Novak” after the Cavaliers went on a brief run late in the fourth quarter. The Garden crowd was delighted by Novak’s sensational 17-point performance in 17 minutes.
“To hear your name chanted at Madison Square Garden, there’s nothing like it. The fans here… it’s unbelievable. I can’t imagine playing in a better place. No matter where you’re from, to play in ‘The Mecca of Basketball’ here at the Garden… there’s nothing like it,” Novak told Knicks’ reporter Tina Cervasio after the game.
Knicks fans didn’t get their wish granted as head coach Mike D’Antoni opted to leave Novak on the bench for the remainder of the game but Novak had already done his part in helping the Knicks defeat the Cavs, 120-103.
“He was ridiculous,” D’Antoni said in disbelief during his postgame press conference.
Novak is just one component of a Knicks’ bench that is made up of roles players who each excel at a certain function. Novak is the danger man from three-point territory. Iman Shumpert provides energy and hustle plays. A rejuvenated J.R. Smith plays an inside/outside game while Jared Jeffries does the unselfish dirty work that doesn’t always result in statistics. Baron Davis is an experienced backup who allows D’Antoni to take some of the creative burden off Lin.
For a team that was once overly-reliant on their two main stars in Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire, the Knicks have now become the definition of a team that draws upon all their resources to win games. Novak is just one piston firing the Knicks’ machine.
Knicks fans… has your team finally become less reliant on Carmelo and Amar’e? Do Novak and the backup brigade bring hope to a second-half surge? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to: @HartnettWFAN.