The Knicks' 106-94 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday afternoon signaled something that has been creeping up for more than a week now: the end of Linsanity.
Jeremy Lin struggled to score 14 points on 5 for 18 from the field as the Knicks continued their March winless streak and lost their fifth consecutive game. That's not to say that Lin was completely ineffective -- he's averaged 16.4 points per game during the five-game losing streak -- but he hasn't had the kind of impact that took the world by storm.
The Knicks' losing streak could be attributed to a more difficult schedule and chemistry issues -- they're a mere 2-7 since Carmelo Anthony returned on Feb. 20 -- but more important is that all of the excitement around the team appears to be gone.
The Knicks are no longer the darling of the national media because Lin isn't carving up opposing defenses as he was during a thrilling seven-game win streak in early February. His turnovers continue to be an issue, his defense is mediocre at best, and teams have figured out how to defend him.
Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv noted on Sunday that for the first time since the beginning of Linsanity, Lin's press conference was held in the locker room and not in the large media room at Madison Square Garden.
Since Lin burst onto the scene on Feb. 4 with 25 points off the bench against the New Jersey Nets, he has held his press conferences in the large media room due to all of the media interest. During the height of Linsanity, press from around the world packed into the media room and peppered the second-year guard with questions.
But the craze is over.
The guard, who was the first New York athlete to ever appear on back-to-back Sports Illustrated covers, was still surrounded by a small army of reporters and cameras in the locker room, according to Zagoria, but it was nowhere near the throng it once was.
The diminishing effects of Linsanity have also affected the secondary ticket market. Joellen Ferrer, a spokewoman for StubHub, said that during the peak of Linsanity Knicks tickets saw 10 times the usual search activity and traffic. She said that the Knicks have always been the top draw on the ticket website, but that ticket prices climbed to two to three times the normal amount during the frenzy.
Those prices haven't dipped significantly because the Knicks are still in the playoff race, said Ferrer, but the general interest in Knicks tickets has diminished.
During the height of the craze it was easy to quickly turn Knicks tickets for double their value, according to one colleague who flipped multiple game tickets on StubHub for a nice profit. That amount of intense interest in getting tickets anywhere inside Madison Square Garden is over, as are the days of people willing to pay far more than face value to ticket scalpers in front of the basketball arena.
Even television ratings have dipped recently. During the height of the madness, MSG notched a 7.3 overnight rating for Knicks games against New Orleans and New Jersey. In the team's game against the San Antonio Spurs on March 8, the Knicks had a 4.34 rating on MSG - still a good number, according to Sports Business Journal's John Ourand, but not nearly as high as it had been.
Despite being down in every category across the board, the Knicks still defended Lin as much as they could after Sunday's loss.
Coach Mike D'Antoni said that he still thought Lin was going to be a very good point guard, while backup point guard Baron Davis reasoned that the wear and tear of the NBA could have worn Lin out.
He's getting hit a lot, he's taking a beating and his body is probably banged up a little bit,'' Baron Davis told the New York Post. But overall he's a fighter, has a lot of heart and we'll stick with him and he'll turn it around. They wore him down.''
It's possible that the Knicks could eventually turn things around and get the team back on a winning track, but America has seemingly moved on. March Madness is set to take over the lives of millions of basketball fans for the next three weeks with interest in the Knicks continuing to slip. After that there will be the beginning of Major League Baseball, the Masters, and a slew of other sporting events.
The Knicks' playoff hopes might not be over, but Linsanity certainly appears to be.