ORLANDO – Fortunately, Jeremy Lin’s first press conference at NBA All-Star Weekend included a question about Jeremy Lin having any sort of press conference, period, at All-Star Weekend.
Even though it had only been three weeks since Lin “blew up” as the NBA’s biggest story – underdog Asian-American kid from Harvard coming off the bench to revive one of the league’s marquee franchises in America’s media capital – the frenzy had become the new normal for many.
Oh, of course Lin would be on the cover of Sports Illustrated (again). Oh, of course he would outsell every NBA All-Star in replica jerseys. Oh, of course he would have his very own press conference in an interview room that went SRO 10 minutes before he arrived.
Screeeeech! Someone finally stopped the Linsanity and asked Lin – who never asked for any of the hype or mania surrounding him – if he could appreciate how surreal this was. From sleeping on his brother’s couch a few weeks ago to a private audience with a global sporting press, beyond what the actual All-Stars were getting.
“Oh, absolutely,” the second-year point guard said. “Just any press conference of my own in general, let alone All-Star Weekend. Just to be here and to see the company and all the players that are here is just – it’s been unbelievable, and I’m just trying to take it all in and embrace it and enjoy it every step of the way.”
The legend of Jeremy Lin is pretty well known by now: Undrafted out of Harvard. Signed by Golden State as a free agent in July 2010. Modest rookie season with the Warriors (2.6 ppg, 1.4 apg in 9.8 mpg). Cut in December 2011. Picked up and quickly dumped by Houston. Signed by New York two days after Christmas but barely used through nine appearances, averaging about six minutes, across five weeks.
Then – kaboom! – Lin scores 25 points off the bench against New Jersey. Twenty-eight vs. Utah. Twenty-three with 10 assists at Washington, 38 against the Lakers … and the Knicks win nine of 10 games. He becomes the NBA’s flavor of the month and beyond, a wholly unexpected, happy story in an odd post-lockout season. A downright phenomenon that – even after losses to the Nets and the Heat in recent days (and an ugly stats line vs. Miami of eight points, eight turnovers and 1-of-11 shooting) – shows little sign of abating.
Though Lin expects it to soon.
“Hopefully as the season progresses, it will go from [Linsanity] to ‘New York Knicks,’ ” he said. “We can make a good push after the All-Star break and people will start talking about the Knicks and not necessarily me.” New York is 17-18, at No. 7 in the East and chasing a second consecutive playoff berth after a six-year drought.
Lin shared some other tidbits with the inquiring minds Friday, in the hours before he played in the Rising Stars game at Amway Center.
— Landry Fields, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Jared Jeffries have been the New York teammates who have been most supportive and helpful as he has learned, and been tested by, the league.
— Had Knicks guard Iman Shumpert not gotten hurt and dropped out of Saturday’s Slam Dunk contest, Lin might have participated with a replica of his famous couch: “Landry was going to roll a couch out with a cover over it, I was going to be sleeping underneath it and then we were going to pull the cover. I was going to throw to Iman an alley-oop from the couch. And he was going to jump over both me and the couch, windmill it and then sit down and have Landry hand him a Sprite.”
— He hasn’t splurged on any purchase. “I’m still a minimum [salary] guy. That hasn’t changed.”
— His job security was precarious enough in January that he said a prayer in pregame chapel in Miami, as the date for guaranteeing contracts (or dumping those without them) approached.
— Yet he never had a solid Plan B in his back pocket, in the event New York did cut him. “Obviously I was thinking about three main options: overseas, D-League or to just take a break or give up basketball for a while,” Lin said. “I was just trying not to think about it, basically.”
— Lin met head-on a question about his ethnicity and whether it worked against him with NBA scouts. “I think it has something to do with it,” he said. “But I think just being Asian-American, obviously when you look at me, I’m gong to have to prove myself more so, again and again and again, and some people may not believe it.
“I know a lot of people say I’m ‘deceptively athletic’ and ‘deceptively quick,’ and I’m not sure what’s deceptive. But it could be the fact that I’m Asian-American. But I think that’s fine. It’s something that I embrace, and it gives me a chip on my shoulder. But I’m very proud to be Asian-American and I love it.”