- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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HOUSTON -- After Kendall Marshall's impressive 20-point, 15-assist night in his first game starting at point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, coach Mike D'Antoni was so charged by the performance that he likened Marshall to the most surprising success story of his coaching career: Jeremy Lin.
The "Linsanity" run during New York's 2011-12 season coincided with a seven-game winning streak by the Knicks, led every step of the way by Lin putting up points and dishing out assists as the starting point guard.
The Lakers are just 1-2 since Marshall took over starting point guard duties last week, but the former D-Leaguer (just like Lin) has been superb, averaging 15.7 points, 12.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds on 56.3 percent shooting in those three starts.
"He's done a great job," Lin said when asked about Marshall after the Houston Rockets' shootaround Wednesday in preparation for the Lakers. "He's a phenomenal passer and he's just a smart, smart player. He's definitely taken advantage of the opportunity and all the injuries that they have and really done a great job. So, I think people are happy for him, for sure."
D'Antoni compared Marshall's inauspicious first appearance with the Lakers, when the North Carolina product had four turnovers in six minutes against the Golden State Warriors, with Lin's game against the Boston Celtics just before his memorable run started when Lin had just two points, one assist, one turnover and two fouls in seven minutes.
"The first time he went out in Boston it was awful, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh,’" D'Antoni recalled following the Lakers' 110-99 win over the Utah Jazz last week in Marshall's first start. "Then, obviously it happened to him. It does happen to guys."
A lot has happened to Lin since his days being coached by D'Antoni, most notably signing a $25 million contract with Houston, receiving critical acclaim after releasing the documentary "Linsanity" detailing his rise to fame and just this week, inking a new endorsement deal with Adidas AG.
"We'll still text back and forth throughout the season," Lin said of this relationship with D'Antoni. "He came out and was there for the 'Linsanity' documentary premiere (at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood) and he let me work out at the Lakers' facility when I was down there in L.A. this summer. So, I think we'll always have a special bond just because of everything that happened."
Lin said that D'Antoni's coaching style helped him grow.
"I think he lets guards play through their mistakes," Lin said. "I think he gives them a lot of freedom and creativity and I think he's really good at finding ways to get mismatches on the floor and he's really innovative when it comes to that type of stuff. So, he does a great job and he makes you feel like (you're important). He empowers you, basically."
Lin said that he even notices D'Antoni's coaching influence on the sets that Rockets coach Kevin McHale runs in Houston.
"I think in general the league has adopted a lot of what he started," Lin said. "Him and Golden State 'small ball' and stuff like that, you see lot of that just filtering into all different teams right now."
22hMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne