On Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks’ Jeremy Lin (林書豪) officially went and got himself a hefty piece in a 99-92 win against the New Jersey Nets. Having been firmly planted on the bench all season (and all career, for that matter), Lin stepped up and gave an electric performance in front of the Knicks faithful at the Mecca of Basketball, scoring a career-high 25 points (with 12 coming in the 4th quarter) while dishing 7 assists and nabbing 5 rebounds.
The New York Times reports:
Rapturous chants of “Je-re-my!” filled the arena. Every fourth-quarter basket was met with a booming, “Jeremy Linnnnn!” from the public-address announcer, Mike Walczewski. When the final buzzer sounded, Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” blasted from the arena sound system in tribute.
Lin ran the pick-and-roll crisply, penetrated the lane repeatedly and converted at the rim frequently, going 10 for 19 from the field. He fed the Knicks’ big men for dunks and layups and played stout defense on [Deron] Williams, one of the league’s top point guards.
[Coach Mike ] D’Antoni cautioned everyone not to get carried away, but he had a hard time containing his own giddiness. Asked if Lin might join the starting lineup, D’Antoni chuckled and demurred but said, “We’ll look.”
“Hey, the Asian guy can play”
Signed in 2010 by the Golden State Warriors (his hometown team) after going undrafted, Lin has struggled to find a regular rotation spot in the NBA. The point guard out of Harvard has played in no more than 38 games in his career so far, and has done multiple stints playing in the NBA Development League.
Now, Lin’s story seems to be a Rudy-esque triumphal underdog sports biopic that’s just waiting to happen. The subject of much spilled ink after embarrassing John Wall (the number one draft pick in 2010) in the NBA Summer League two years ago, the buzz surrounding Lin subsided after the novelty of being the first Chinese-American (Lin’s parents are from Taiwan) to make it to the NBA wore off.
In particular, much of the hype concerned the fact that Lin is a point guard, meaning Lin made it to the NBA based purely on his basketball skill, rather than the fact of his height. No offense to Yao Ming, but the fact is that Yao would’ve been given a shake by NBA teams pretty much regardless of his skill level. Any human being that lists a 7 foot 6 inch height on their resume is always going to be irresistible catnip for NBA teams.
Now, after a dazzling game against Deron Williams of the Nets, an All-Star whose name regularly comes up when discussing best point guards in the league, Lin has once again reminded the basketball world that he can play.
“At point guard, out of Harrrrrvard…”
Lin will start for the Knicks against the Utah Jazz at Madison Square Garden, and hopefully he’ll have his red underwear on to avoid injuries. Lin was born in the summer of 1988, meaning this Year of the Dragon is his benmingnian.
Meanwhile, confused commentary from Chinese netizens revolves around his ethnicity (some confused “career” with “Korean”), whether or not he counts as Chinese or American (one netizen claimed that if Lin is “really” Chinese, then most of the players in the NBA have to be considered African), and how Lin is just the sort of point guard that the Chinese team needs.
Which won’t be happening anytime soon (aka possibly never), since Lin holds an American passport, and is rooted in his Taiwanese identity firmly enough to have met Taiwanese president (and fellow Harvard alum) Ma Ying-jeou in 2010.
Of course, ultimately the Chinese government is to thank for all of this, since Lin would’ve never played for the Knicks without their wise foresight. Had J.R. Smith, currently still with the Zhejiang Golden Bulls of the CBA, been allowed back to the NBA when games began in December, Lin would most likely have been waived by the Knicks to make room for Smith. By sticking to their contractual obligation guns, the Chinese government (which ultimately owns and operates the CBA) helped the cause of Chinese basketball and played an integral role in improving cross-strait ties with the common language of sport. Harmonious to the max!