Alan Diaz, Associated Press
MIAMI — 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 New York 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 early 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.
Most had been hesitant to talk about the Lin story line, 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 Carmelo Anthony, Amare 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."
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. Entering Wednesday's game against Atlanta at Madison Square Garden, New York — suddenly a strong playoff hopeful after a dreadful start — is 8-2 with Lin in the rotation, and he's averaging 24.6 points and 9.2 assists in that stretch.
"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."
Celebrities are expected in droves. Floyd Mayweather Jr., who's been to many Heat games since James, Wade and Chris Bosh decided in 2010 to play together in Miami, 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.
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