Linsanity Takes His Talents to South Beach

It's gonna be a hot one in Miami on Thursday night

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    What a way to end the first half.

    That sound you hear is high-fiving in the NBA offices.

    The league's best team hosting its best story in prime time just before the All-Star break, a mighty fine showcase for a league that was in disarray just a few months ago.

    The ratings for this game will represent a final blow to the idea that fans hold grudges against lockouts and just might wind up being the highest ever for a regular season game on cable.

    As with every opponent the Knicks have faced since the dawn of Jeremy Lin, the Heat were inundated with questions about the league's breakout star. LeBron James didn't seem thrilled to be answering them, beyond saying that he expects to find himself guarding Lin at some point Thursday night, before finally giving up some more of his thoughts.

    "When the Knicks are playing good, it’s better for the league," James said. "It's great for the league what Jeremy Lin is doing. They were looking for a point guard and they found one. At the end of the day, he’s winning ballgames. You average 25 and nine and you lose, it doesn’t mean much."

    When you hear James say things like that, you have to wonder if he has another, unvocalized thought when he sees what's going on in New York since Lin hit the scene.

    It is better for the league when the Knicks are good because the league gets to put a frenzied Madison Square Garden on television, see Sunday against the Mavericks, and promote their sport as the biggest show in town.

    Lin is the star of that show right now, perhaps the biggest and -- in a rare shift for New York -- most nationally appealing star that show has ever had, and it has to dawn on James that it could have been him. It could have been him standing in the middle of a court while the Garden goes crazy around him, it could have been him owning the biggest stage on the planet and it could have been his image alone as the league's standard bearer.

    If he hasn't had those thoughts, he'll probably have them on Thursday night when he hears the Heat's rarely-filled arena making noise for the opposition instead of a home team that's the best in the league.

    There's an argument to be made that Linsanity has been a good thing for James because it has taken some heat off the Heat's championship-or-bust season, but, seriously, should the best player in the league really enjoy that?

    None of that matters when it comes to what goes down on the court where the Heat have a clear and heavy advantage over a Knicks team that's still trying to figure out exactly what they have on their hands. But it is part of the narrative of the game and the choice to pass up on that will always be part of James' career.

    Of course, had James come to town we would never have gotten to see the Lin phenomenon in New York and it is hard to imagine trading these dizzying last few weeks for anything else in the world.

    It has been that much fun to watch and you can't think of something more compelling than watching the way it unfolds from here.

    Thursday in Miami is the next step in that process and you can be sure the world will be watching.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.