NEWS
02/13/2012 06:21 EST | Updated 04/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Lin-sanity! Raptors coach Casey doesn't want Lin's presence to become sideshow

TORONTO - Dwane Casey is a huge Jeremy Lin fan, but the Raptors coach stops short of being swept up in the "Lin-sanity."

The biggest story in the NBA is in Toronto on Tuesday as the New York Knicks visit, but the coach who worked with the global sensation when he was a skinny non-descript guard fresh out of Harvard cautions against letting Lin's presence turn into a "sideshow.

"We're here for business," Casey said."He's a wonderful young man, I'm happy for him, but I'm not going to be happy for him (Tuesday) night. I want to kick his butt."

Lin's lightning-swift rise from a seldom-used player to NBA phenomenon has caught the imagination of fans around the world, and his inspirational tale — or "Linderella story" — has already been well-documented.

The first American-born NBA player of Asian heritage. A Harvard graduate who went undrafted. Cut by both Golden State and Houston.

Lin was trying to land a job with the Mavericks in the summer league in 2010 when Casey was a coach with Dallas.

"My question to him was 'Why the hell do you want to be an NBA player? You're smarter than all of us, you've got an honours degree from Harvard,'" Casey said laughing. "He did a heck of a job in our summer league.

"He's played well, and he's had the opportunity. He was prepared for the opportunity, he's taking advantage of it."

The 23-year-old was named Eastern Conference player of the week Monday after his first sensational week as an NBA starter. Lin averaged 27.3 points and 8.3 assists while leading the Knicks to a 4-0 record, and his 109 points are the most by an NBA player in his first four starts since the 1976-77 season.

He also became the first player in NBA history to tally at least 20 points and seven assists in each of his first four starts.

His spectacular week came barely a month after he posted on Twitter: "Everytime i try to get into Madison Square Garden, the security guards ask me if im a trainer LOL."

The six-foot-three son of engineers from Taiwan wasn't even secure in his job in New York, so he hadn't found himself a place to live, opting to either crash with his brother or sleep on teammate Landry Fields' couch.

Now his dream week— which included dropping 38 points on Kobe Bryant and the Lakers — has suddenly made him the hottest player in the league. His Twitter (@JLin7) followers, about 30,000 only a couple of weeks ago, now number more than 220,000.

"He's been all over the world, man, all we hear right now is just Jeremy Lin, Jeremy Lin, Jeremy Lin," said Raptors guard Andrea Barbosa. "He's doing what he's supposed to do, and like he said in an interview that he did in New York, it was a dream come true for him and he's definitely enjoying it."

Lin-sanity is already boosting ticket sales.

An Air Canada Centre ticket that will set you back $44 for the Knicks will cost less than half that the next day when the San Antonio Spurs are in town.

Lin was a hot ticket Saturday in Minnesota, as the Timberwolves sold standing-room only tickets to pack in an announced crowd of 20,232, the largest at the Target Center since 2004.

He's been compared to Denver quarterback Tim Tebow for the way he inspires his teammates and the way he's open about his faith.

Lin's Twitter (@JLin7) avatar is an illustration of Jesus saying: "No, I'm not talking about Twitter, I literally want you to follow me."

He's also been compared to a young Steve Nash, who thrived under coach Mike D'Antoni's offence in Phoenix before the coach left for the Knicks. Turns out, Nash is also a big Lin fan.

"If you love sports you have to love what Jeremy Lin is doing," Canada's NBA star posted on Twitter. "Getting an opportunity and exploding!!"

His name alone is creating a whole new vocabulary. Spike Lee and fan group "The Orange & Blue Faithful" assembled a list of nearly 50 nicknames via Twitter, including "Jeremy 'the Asian Wilt Chamber'-lin." "Jeremy 'I play you like a vio'-lin."

On the court, the Knicks had lost five of six before Lin turned the team's fortunes around, boosting their record to 13-15 despite the absence of Amare Stoudemire, who was grieving the death of his brother, and injured Carmelo Anthony.

Stoudemire is expected to play Tuesday, making the Knicks' offence potentially that much more lethal.

Casey said he's preparing as he would against any other top point guard in the league — even if Lin has held that position for barely a week.

"We're going to respect him as a starter, we're not looking at this wunderkind, we're looking at him as an NBA starting point guard and we'll treat him as such," Casey said.

The game marks the third straight high-profile game for the Raptors (9-20), who upset the Boston Celtics on Friday and then were edged 94-92 by the Lakers on Sunday.

NOTES — Raptors guard Jerryd Bayless went through some drills Monday and will be a game time decision after missing two games with an ankle injury.