Nothing is Linpossible

Every once in a while, something in sports happens that is so unexpected and polarizing that it consumes all media; 24/7 coverage seems understated, as the topic is beat into the ground by so-called know-it-alls who dissect the story from every angle possible. You might call it insane. In this case, I would call it Lin-sane.

Last week Jeremy Lin, the second-year point guard for the New York Knicks and second Asian American to ever play in the NBA, posted career highs of 25 points, five rebounds and seven assists in 36 minutes. Naturally, Lin was given his first start in New York’s next game. Lin woke up that morning at his brother’s apartment (he has been staying on his brother’s couch in Manhattan because his contract is currently non-guaranteed) and headed over to Madison Square Garden, where he says he is often mistaken for a trainer. The reeling Knicks have been searching for a point guard all year to run Mike D’Antoni’s offensive-minded system; it’s safe to say that D’Antoni has found his point guard.

In his first four starts, Lin has demolished expectations, averaging 27.3 points, 8.3 assists, four rebounds and two steals per game to lead the Knicks to four straight wins and garner Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. His 109 points in his first four starts is the most by any player in the history of the NBA. The next three on that list? Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Jordan.

On the court, Lin displays a creativity and tenacity that has instantly endeared him to both fans and teammates. His inspired and unselfish play has won over his fellow Knicks — who jump on him relentlessly every time he makes a play to force an opposing timeout.

So while Lin’s out-of-nowhere success has spawned a ‘Tebownian’ media frenzy, it is hard not to acknowledge that Lin’s Asian American background may have been a factor in the perceived precariousness of his success.

As a high school senior, Lin captained Palo Alto High School in Northern California to a 32-1 record and upset national powerhouse Mater Dei to win the CIF Division II state championship. That year Lin averaged 15.1 points per game, 7.1 assists, 6.2 rebounds and 5 steals and was named first-team All-State and Northern California Player of the Year. Lin is 6’3” and weighs 200 pounds, yet he was not recruited out of high school to play college basketball.

How is that so? In a college basketball recruiting world in which recruiters must glance at prospects like a human resources manager glances at a résumé, Lin does not stick out. Size, strength, athleticism and — for worse or for better — color of one’s skin indicate success in the upper echelons of college basketball, and Lin didn’t fit the mold. It shouldn’t have hindered Lin’s pursuit of his dream, but it did for the simple reason that he was an unknown case study — even at the collegiate level, there have been few Asian Americans that have made an impact in NCAA Division I basketball.

Lin sent his résumé (featuring a 4.2 GPA) and a highlight tape to Cal, UCLA, Stanford and every Ivy League school. The Pac-10 schools wanted him to walk on, but Lin opted to attend Harvard where he was guaranteed a spot on the team.

Lin made all coaches who passed up on him regret their decision. He improved each season in college, was named to the All-Ivy League Second Team in his sophomore season and the First Team in both his junior and senior year. In his senior year, Lin was one of the 11 finalists for the Bob Cousy Player of the Year Award and led Harvard to a school-record 21 wins. He became the first player in Ivy League History to record at least 1,450 career points, 450 rebounds, 400 assists and 200 steals.

Yet again, he was overlooked in the NBA draft. Ivy League players just do not get drafted into the NBA. Lin was signed by the Golden State Warriors as a free agent on a partially guaranteed deal in July 2010. He was released this past offseason and subsequently signed with the Houston Rockets. The Rockets also failed to see the potential in Lin and dropped him before the New York Knicks offered him a chance to compete for the third-string point guard spot. And now here we are.

But this is not a story of an unlikely underdog succeeding. Rather, it is a story of perseverance. Lin was not initially given the opportunity to play D-I college basketball, but had to pursue a spot on a team himself. He was sent to the D league four times in two years and battled back each time. Lin was cut by two teams, yet continued to battle, intent on living out his dream. Consistently underestimated, Lin has made believers of his doubters and fans of his skeptics.

So the question is this: What is Lin? Is he a star? A role player? I would say any player that can drop 38 points on the Lakers while trading buckets with Kobe Bryant has a shot to make a lasting impact on the NBA. But really, who knows? I just know I am enjoying what he is doing now. I also know that I will never underestimate him.

Daily Nexus Sports Editor Ryan Porush is happy to be living in the Lin Dynasty.


Warriors Get Linched

Chris Webber. Vince Carter. Jeremy Lin? The recent emergence of this game-changer from Harvard has sent the sports world into a frenzy. The stir has caused this lifelong Golden State Warriors fan to be diagnosed with a case of horrid “Lin-sanity,” but not in a good way. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Spike Lee’s movies, but seeing him that giddy at Madison Square Garden makes me sick.

While I completely understand that he’s fertilizing another team’s greener pastures of NBA success, in the process he has taken an enormous dump on the burnt-up excuse for a lawn that is my beloved Warrior team’s field of dreams.

After B-Diddy, Captain Jack and J-Rich eventually departed for broader horizons following the 2007 first-round slaying of the Mavericks, my only happy memory regarding the combination of the words “playoffs” and “win” disappeared with them. There is a basketball curse on the “City by the Bay,” and Jeremy Lin epitomizes this horrifying hex.

Every team in the NBA has made bad trades, horrid free-agent acquisitions and draft-day blunders that haunt the respective franchise for years to come (i.e. Darko Milicic and Portland’s passover of the Durantula), but this has become the Warriors’ forte.

In 1964, GSW decided that it was time to reshape the roster by trading Wilt Chamberlain. In 1980, the Warriors traded away Robert Parish and a first-round pick to the Celtics, who then used the selection to draft Kevin McHale (both eventually became Hall-of-Famers). In 1994, Golden State traded ROY Chris Webber for Tom Gugliotta and in 1998 traded Vince Carter for Antawn Jamison, missing out on Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce in the process.

The highly depressing 10 years following the C-Webb trade go something like this:

1995: Draft NBA journeyman Joe Smith first overall over future star Kevin Garnett.

1996: Draft career 3.7 ppg player Todd Fuller over the likes of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Zydrunus Ilgauskas and Jermaine O’Neal.

1997: Select Adonal Foyle one pick before Tracy McGrady.

2002: Draft mediocre Mike Dunleavy third overall and pass on Amaré Stoudemire.

2004: Draft Andris Biedrins over solid NBA starters Al Jefferson, Josh and JR Smith.

2005: Draft Ike Diogu ninth overall, missing out on the choice between studs Andrew Bynum and Danny Granger.

While some teams win championships, the Warriors are happy to get near .500. While some teams draft All-Stars and keep them, Golden State grooms talent for a few seasons only to trade them away for nearly nothing in return. It’s hard to swallow the fact that if we had properly evaluated the past 10 or so drafts, my team could present a starting five comprised of Kevin Garnett, Steve Nash, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter and Amaré Stoudemire. Instead, my Warriors team is filled with two guards who can’t coincide in the same backcourt, a sad excuse for a center and an overpaid big-man with no D. To top it all off, we don’t have a first-round pick in this year’s NBA draft because we traded it away three years ago for a backup point guard who is no longer in the league.

To think Kruk and Kuip said Giants baseball is torture? Being a Golden State Warriors fan is an absolute rip-out-your-hair, scream-at-the-TV roller coaster ride of emotion that always ends in sadness. For all you Warriors fans out there, keep on keeping on; and for all you fans of other NBA teams: Screw you, for you will never experience the pain of having Andris Biedrins as your starting center for seven straight seasons.

Daily Nexus Reporter Joe Tapiro’s dreams of a Warriors championship are nothing but Linception.