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The Bond: How Jeremy Lin and Kenny Atkinson's fortunes are intertwined

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Lin and Kenny Atkinson shared one shining moment four years ago, protege and mentor.  But LinSanity is nothing more than a prelude to what will start in a little more than three months. Lin is not some backup thrust into the national spotlight and Atkinson is not some player development coach.

Now, their fates are intertwined as starting point guard and head coach. One doesn't succeed without the other.

Mike Mazzeo notes that the bond started with Atkinson doubting Lin's readiness as an NBA player.

Lin was getting torched during a 3-on-3 practice game ... by another assistant coach. "And I’m thinking to myself, ‘Is this kid any good?’" Atkinson told Mazzeo.

It worked out, obviously, when Lin took the Knicks on a magical run that they have yet to match.  Atkinson recalls the one moment encapsulated LinSanity ... and his reaction.

"When he hit the [winning 3-point] shot in Toronto, it gave me chills," Atkinson said. "It was like when you see a great Broadway show or a great symphony. Those are moments where you get emotional. It wasn’t just, ‘Wow, we won!’ To see that kid and what he went through and see that this was actually possible, it wasn’t just a happy moment. It was an emotional moment."

Atkinson followed his young friend's career --within bounds-- and after some tough times in L.A.and Houston,  Lin did well in Charlotte.  Atkinson told Mazzeo how another former Knicks assistant Steve Clifford helped him evolve.

"I thought Charlotte was great for him and helped convince me even more that he was ready to assume a larger role," Atkinson told Mazzeo. "His performance in the playoffs was pretty good, and you could tell when it counted Cliff was counting on him, and that was important to me. In a vacuum, Linsanity wasn’t enough to say we wanted to bring him here."

Atkinson was obviously critical to the Nets pursuit of Lin and Lin knew all about Atkinson.

"I mean, this guy wakes up at 6 a.m. every morning," Lin said of Atkinson at the time of LinSanity. "I’ll text after a game at midnight, 1 o’clock when I go home, and I’ll say, ‘Hey, can I look at those turnovers? Can I look at the upcoming team? How they run pick-and-rolls?’ And he’ll have the film ready when I walk into the facility the next morning."

This time, it will be different.  Atkinson won't be pulling video.  He has people to do that.  But the mutual trust is going to have to be even stronger.