Saturday, February 11, 2012

Jeremy Lin Comes From Out of Nowhere to Jolt NBA


He is absolutely for real. Real as he is advertised by the local media and New York tabloids. By now, the world is glued to Jeremy Lin -- the man of the hour, the latest phenomenon in the NBA -- scoring a career-high 38 points and leading the New York Knicks to a 92-85 victory Friday night.

When he made the grander statement than Kobe Bryant, arguably the greatest ballplayer of our generation, the roars were earsplitting and electrifying in the world's most famous arena -- the Madison Square Garden, of course, where he intrigued the world with a Linsanity masterpiece. The more he smiled and the further I was impressed with Lin's striking performance, I am left to believe that the swirling hype of Linsanity is not a fluke but real after all.

Everyone was standing on their feet in the Garden -- including the celebrities courtside, and witnessed the emergence of the latest commodity in the league. Uh, yeah, a star was born in New York. That star, indeed, was Lin, the first ever Taiwanese American to play in the NBA. If you didn't know Lin, you know him now after last night's surprising shot making and playmaking in front of a national audience to remarkably overawe us under the lights of the world's most renowned venue. But, as hard as it is to believe, Lin is coming into his own, not afraid to step into the spotlight for a demanding sports city that expects much from its star players.

If any superstar underachieves, well, then, the local media won't hesitate to criticize a struggling athlete, which places a tremendous amount of pressure on him as expectations largely are there. Playing in a city where much weight is on athletes' shoulders, the pressure and ridiculous hype has not bothered Lin -- the NBA standout from Harvard University, an Ivy League school best known for the starting point of U.S. presidency, or even the foundation for a career in the law offices of Jacoby & Meyers. The drama on Broadway, also known as Linsanity, is far from over. It's actually about Lin right now, if no one else, appreciated for turning around an underachieving team, doing it without an injured Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, who left the team on Monday after his older brother, Hazell, was tragically killed in a car crash.

Anybody who doesn't believe in Lin, that he's not convincing and nothing but hype because of his ethic background, wasn't watching him in the fast break or him burying mid-range shots Friday night. This is what I call his breakout performance, coming against a winning franchise with one of the all-time greats, the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe. Tempted as you are to doubt him, refusing to refer to him as a superstar or an authentic hero who could possibly save the Knicks disastrous season from suffocating, Lin is now everyone's new talking point. He deserves credit for 28.5 points and 8.3 assists during the Knicks current four-game winning streak, essentially doing it without Anthony and Stoudemire in three games.

He wanted to play in the NBA -- very, very much, obviously, and now he is soaring after he was given an opportunity in New York, where he's found a home and has been welcomed. So now, here is Lin, an Asian-American, who couldn't find a role in the league and had been cut twice before the Knicks picked him up. What Lin has done the past few weeks is unbelievable, which makes this such a sweet NBA novelty, capturing everyone's attention, seizing the fame on Broadway. When the suitors came calling -- and his services were useful to the Knicks as a fruitless team trying to find ways to reduce the misery and win games -- Lin was the kid, living the NBA dream. It's the best fit for him, able to start at point guard and prove to us nationally that he's an NBA star on the rise.

There's no doubt in our minds his Harvard classmates are studying the complex academic work in law school, but Lin is soaring in the NBA -- providing hope and much promise for the Knicks as we, by now, believe in the best story happening in basketball. All of a sudden, the Knicks are optimistic they can dismiss a bleak season of injuries and inconsistencies on defense, with the aid of Lin, who is now running the back court, setting up plays for his Knicks' teammates in which everyone around him is more efficient and better in coach Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo offense.

In recent weeks, he has taken the whole world by surprise, no doubt, the center of attention in New York, particularly after Friday night when he climbed from anonymity to stardom. What's not to love about Lin -- an exceptional player with finesse and a gift to play basketball? His presence alone, being that he's the first Asian American to play professionally, can inspire many Asian Americans to chase a lifelong dream in the NBA. For most cultures, as is always the case, it normally influence more kids to participate and become involve with the sport by sticking with it and never giving up.


It's been fun to watch Lin emerge in a game where many Asians haven't gained significant prosperity, but as we know now, he may have changed it for the better. There is not much talent in New York, without Carmelo or Amar'e, but Lin has brought energy and aspiration that was missing for the depleted Knicks, who were having an awful season until Lin arrived to rescue them from absolute destruction. Lin, ladies and gentlemen, is more than just a sensation and could very well be the next valuable point guard in the Knicks future, if he continues his impressive scoring and abilities to dominate flawlessly as the team's floor general.

This is all from a guy who was waived twice after the enduring lockout. This is all from a guy who came from nowhere and was in the fourth spot on the Knicks' point guard depth chart, but always refused to quit and found a home on the East Coast. The sudden rise has captivated Asian Americans and the NBA in general, the one player featured in headlines across the country for making the claim that he is worthy of establishing a foundation in the competitive market of pro basketball. He's dribbling the ball, shooting the ball, creating scoring opportunities, and before you know it, he'll be seen on the next label of an endorsement deal -- whether it's Nike or McDonald's.

And if he continues to play impressively, he could even be noticed globally and outside of America where he is now the talk all over, not only in New York but also nationally. What a night in the Garden, as roaring fans raised signs of him, quickly becoming obsess with the humbled 23-year-old guard, making a vintage Lin feel right at home. The noise of thunderous roars echoed through the building and fans shouted MVP chants, while he gave the spectators something to watch, something to be amazed by, something to cheer for when New Yorkers witnessed a revolutionary ballplayer, an assassin stunningly outscoring Kobe in a surprising duel. He finished the night -- and you can shake your head and blink your eyes in disbelief -- with 38 points and seven assists in a statement game.

This was supposed to be the night that Bryant have a shooting display at the Garden, where he once settled for 61 points to break Bernard King's scoring record for the most points ever scored by a player in that arena. This was supposed to be the night that Bryant outduel Lin. But on this evening, Lin exceeded all the hype on national television, averaging 76 points in his previous three games before meeting the Lakers. The Knicks, after winning four straight games, improved to 12-15 and certainly are in the playoff picture, as long as they keep climbing with Lin largely leading the team. All of this happened when he saw action against the New Jersey Nets on Feb. for which the Knicks had ran out of options at the point guard position.

And, indeed, Lin made the best of that opportunity, by scoring 25 points and amassing seven assists and responded rather strikingly that earned him a spot in the starting lineup. It's amazing to have to admit that he has scored 89 points, the most points among any NBA player in his first three starts since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77. Although he's an NBA player working hard of late, he spends most of his nights on the couch of his brother's, a graduate dental student at New York University, but if he keeps delivering soft jump shots, spinning drives and skilled passes, Lin could potentially be signed to a long-term, million-dollar deal.

What we have seen is Linsane, a Lin-ing streak that has the New York folks buzzing in this empire state of excitement and surprises. There's so much hype, and buzz, the kind of attention surrounding a player for drilling 13 of 23 field goals Friday, including 2 of 4 from three point range. It's suddenly a good vibe at the Madison Square Garden, as Lin, the league's sensation who came out of nowhere, stunned Bryant on a night he finished with 34 points, hitting just 11 of 29 shots.

"I think it's a great story," Bryant said. "It's a testament to perseverance, hard work, and I think it's a good example for kids everywhere. I'm sure he's certainly put a great deal of work in. He's always had that belief in himself, and he just now has the opportunity to do it. I think it'll be fun for the city here, obviously. Once they get Melo back and Amar'e back, it should be a lot of fun here."

This is a great story, a tale of superstardom.

Early on, Lin scored nine of the Knicks' first 13 points, either scoring or passing on their first 15. As we've seen so often from the Lakers, they can't defend the pick-and-roll. The Lakers tried everything to disrupt him, but couldn't stop Lin's hot shooting in the Garden, bringing much fun to the spectators -- including director Spike Lee sitting courtside. By the fourth quarter, Bryant started to find his swagger and hit jumpers from every angle on the floor, but it wasn't enough to slow down Lin. He wasn't given a chance with the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets, but was given that chance with the Knicks, coming from out of nowhere to excite us, alarm us, and entertain us. The Rockets and Warriors now realize they both made bad moves by cutting Lin loose.

"He's not a fluke," Knicks center Tyson Chandler said.

No, he's not. He's on the rise. That's for damn sure.

When it was a bit too late, Bryant buried a double-clutch fallaway jumper and was foul for a three-point play that reduced the lead to 86-78 with four minutes left, but then came Lin attacking like a wild animal on the prowl.

After the Lakers had beaten the Celtics in overtime, Bryant said, "no idea what you guys are talking about" referring to Lin, who he played against last night.

I'm sure Bryant, including the whole world, knows who the hell Lin is now.