DALLAS — Jeremy Lin didn’t hesitate with an honest answer when asked if he feels like an All-Star.
“Uh, no,” he said softly after another choppy performance Wednesday night as the Houston Rockets lost for a fifth consecutive time, unable to claw all the way back from 15 points down despite several chances late to go ahead.
Lin nearly redeemed a poorly played game with a 14-point fourth quarter, but he missed one of his two free throw attempts on two critical trips to the free-throw line in the final two minutes. A badly executed pass in the paint with Houston down three with 14.9 seconds to go for his fourth turnover essentially sealed a 105-100 victory for the suddenly surging Dallas Mavericks, who have won four in a row.
“If I could hit a free throw,” said Lin, who was 6-for-10 from the stripe, “it’d be nice.”
It’s been that kind of season for Lin with the Rockets, who also happen to be the host for the Feb. 17 All-Star Game at Toyota Center. While it’s James Harden — unable to salvage his own brutal shooting night with an aggressive fourth quarter that ended with two failed drives to the rim — who can make a strong case for consideration to be an All-Star starter (although he doesn’t have the fan votes), it is Lin who is being afforded the possibility.
If enough Linsanity fans on at least two continents stuffed the All-Star ballot boxes in the final weeks of fan voting that ended on Monday night, the ex-New York Knicks player and the first American-born NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent could be an All-Star starter for the West while bumping MVP candidate Chris Paul to the bench.
Starters for both conferences will be announced Thursday night (7 p.m. ET, TNT). At last count two weeks ago, Lin was in third place among West guards, well behind Kobe Bryant, but only about 46,000 votes behind the Clippers‘ sensational Paul. CP3 is averaging 16.8 points and ranks second in the league in assists and first in steals, while pacing his team to a 30-9 record.
“That’s the furthest thing from my mind, to be honest, being on a five-game losing streak,” Lin said after finishing with 19 points and four assists, numbers that blurred a five-point night on 2-for-9 shooting through three quarters. “I don’t even care right now, I’m just trying to get a win.”
The Rockets dropped to 21-19 after racing to a season-best seven games over .500 on January 8. They have a deficient defense, but a team-oriented, jet-pack offense that has challenged West-leading Oklahoma City all season as the league’s top-scoring outfit.
Lately, the offense has sputtered and Lin, averaging 12.3 ppg and 6.3 apg this season — and shooting an abysmal 27.6 percent from beyond the arc — hasn’t matched any of those numbers during the skid.
If Lin sneaks past Paul as a starter, the West coaches who pick the seven reserves will have CP3 at the top of their lists. But a deserving guard among a slew of them producing at an All-Star caliber — from Harden to Russell Westbrook to Tony Parker to Jamal Crawford to Stephen Curry to even rookie Damian Lillard — will unfairly be left off the 12-man roster.
Such is the risk of a fan vote, and especially one that draws from an international fan base.
“I would say I’m doing OK,” Lin said. “But I know I’m capable of more, I know I’m better than what I’ve shown throughout the first half of the season.”
Hardly the tone of an All-Star.
Which is why Lin never hesitated with an honest answer to the question.