Steve Novak never had any T-shirts made with cute puns on his last name. He never set off a global hysteria. He did not make the cover of Sports Illustrated in consecutive weeks, and no ESPN employees lost their jobs over a tasteless headline that made reference to his ethnic descent.
There was no mania for Novak like there was for Jeremy Lin, but if the Knicks turn out to be a spoiler in the NBA playoffs, they may find out that the discovery of Novak was the best thing that came out of Linsanity.
Novak shot 8-for-10 from 3-point territory in the Knicks' 118-110 victory over the Celtics on Tuesday, leading a shooting barrage that had never been laid on the Celtics in their current Big Three era. It was Novak's highest long-range output as a pro, but it was not the first time Novak delivered from distance for the Knicks.
If not for Linsanity, none of that may ever have happened.
When Lin had his breakout game Feb. 4, Novak was just another little-used journeyman at the end of the New York bench. He had played more than 13 minutes in a game only once all season and had never scored in double figures.
When Lin emerged, it became obvious that Lin's drive-and-finish game would benefit from a "stretch four" forward. Novak, who once drained seven 3-pointers in one game as a member of the Clippers, was the perfect complement. With the 6-foot-10 Novak drifting around the arc, Lin could drive and dish to a spot-up shooter who was much more reliable than Iman Shumpert or Toney Douglas.
Novak became a key piece of the Knicks' system with Lin. Two days after Lin's first 25-point game, Novak scored 19 points in a win over the Jazz. He scored 19 points again in the next game, a win over Washington. Although he has slowed down since Lin tore the meniscus in his left knee and Carmelo Anthony went back to dominating the ball, Novak has achieved double figures in scoring 16 more times in the 35 games since then. He has gotten multiple 3-point looks in all but one game and usually gets more like four or five attempts per game.
While Lin energized the New York metropolitan populous, there were questions about whether his game could succeed in the NBA over an extended period. Those questions will persist until Lin has played three or four solid seasons as a pro.
For Novak, there are no such questions. Shooters can shoot. Novak's effective field goal percentage on shots made beyond the 3-point line is 68.4 percent, second-best in the NBA among players who have played at least 20 games and attempt at least two 3-pointers per game. For those fans who prefer the more traditional method of keeping track, Novak hits a league-best 45.8 percent of his 3-point shots.
Linsanity was fun while it lasted, but there is no guarantee that Lin will be just as electrifying when he returns from knee surgery. Although Novak probably will not have another game like he did Tuesday, it is easy to imagine him knocking down a huge shot in some big moment of a playoff game.
Knicks fans might even call it "Novakulous." Hopefully not.
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