NEW YORK — After the latest chapter of Linsanity hit Madison Square Garden, a jubilant Jeremy Lin hugged his former teammates and friends, Steve Novak and Tyson Chandler.
He was pleased with the Rockets’ 109-96 victory over the Knicks that snapped New York’s perfect 10-0 record at home, but he was hardly gloating afterward.
Lin knows the Knicks personnel as well as anyone and he understands that without Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert, they are nowhere near full strength.
“They’re not their full team, they’re missing very key guys,” Lin said. “And I think right at the top of the list is Shump. You know, he’s definitely a difference-maker. And obviously, Carmelo and Amar’e didn’t play tonight. So from that end they’re definitely not their full team.”
It is certainly noteworthy that Lin said Shumpert is “at the top of the list” since the news of the day related more to Anthony missing his second straight game with a sprained ankle and SToudemire being cleared to practice beginning Tuesday.
Yet Shumpert is the Knicks’ best perimeter defender, at least he was before tearing his ACL during last year’s playoffs against the Miami Heat.
Without Shumpert, the Knicks have been exposed by speedy, quick point guards like Ty Lawson, Kyrie Irving and, yes, Lin.
One game after Irving went for 41 points against the Knicks, Raymond Felton had his hands full with Lin on the defensive end in this game, but head coach Mike Woodson said he wasn’t concerned.
“No, I’m not concerned about that, not at all,” Woodson said.
It remains unclear when Shumpert will return, but it could be sometime after the New Year.
As for Anthony, he could play Wednesday against Brooklyn at the Garden, but the team expects to know more after practice Tuesday morning.
“He won’t play tonight and we’ll evaluate him again tomorrow when we get to practice and see where he is,” Woodson said. “Hopefully he’ll be ready Wednesday, we just don’t know at this point.”
At 18-5 entering the game, the Knicks didn’t want to take any risks with Anthony, who declared himself out for the game. It’s a long season and there’s no sense risking his healthy if he’s not 100 percent ready to go.
Stoudemire hasn’t played all season but continued to work out both at shootaround and on the court before the game.
With veterans Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby both out with sore left feet, Stoudemire’s return could bolster the power forward spot.
The Knicks initially said in late October that Stoudemire would miss 6-8 weeks, and he is about on target for that return — possibly Friday against Chicago or Sunday against Minnesota.
“He’s been cleared, and again the practices have to go kind of in his favor,” Woodson said. “I don’t want him coming to me after tomorrow’s practice and saying, ‘Coach, I’m hurt and I’m sore.’ Then we gotta evaluate it and still take it a day at a time. I’m not going to rush him back. He’s gotta be ready and I’m gonna lean on him to tell me when he’s ready to go.”
He added: “I just want to make sure he gets out of the practice not hurt.”
Say what you want about Jeremy Lin, but he knows the Knicks as well as anyone.
**For more on the game with Video, Quotes and Notes, read my NBA.com Notebook here.
Photo: New York Times