The Knicks' management likes to boast about the transformation of Madison Square Garden, the expensive, years-in-the-making rebuilding of the venerable arena. But the real transformation, the one that fans notice more than a new hot dog stand or the moving of historic landmarks, took place Feb. 4, little more than 10 months ago.

That was the night that Jeremy Lin was thrust into action and responded, triggering a hard-to-believe ascension from the fringes of the NBA to worldwide stardom no other player in the game could match.

For a brief, fleeting moment, Linsanity was the biggest and best thing in the NBA, transforming the Knicks from an unlikeable bunch of underachievers into the darlings of the sporting world. But it burst, with his play coming down to earth, injuries ending his season and then money ending his time in New York. And now he returns, not as part of Linsanity anymore, but just Jeremy Lin coming to Madison Square Garden tonight with the Houston Rockets.

"I think they're going to give him a heck of an ovation," Steve Novak said of the fans. "I would be shocked if it was anything else. Unless everybody changed their mind and hates him, I think he's one of those guys that people are going to remember for his time here.

"It wasn't a very, very long, long time, but it was special. He played unbelievably well. I think they'll be a movie about it one day."

Maybe, but the reality is that the cheers, as well as the grumbling over his departure, have disappeared by now. The Knicks have moved on, walking away from a chance to match the poison pill, three-year, $25.1 million offer the Rockets tendered and rebuilding the team into a formidable contender with an 18-5 record.