NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Hornets’ Lin plays, and plays it safe, in China — Here, Jeremy Lin is a little more famous than other NBA players of his caliber, owing to his ethnic background (Chinese) and memories of his “Linsanity” splash onto the league’s scene with New York in February 2012. There – that is to say, in China, where Lin is visiting with his Charlotte Hornets team – he’s some combination of Michael Jordan, Elvis and Beatlemania. His popularity since he picked up that country’s basketball baton from Yao Ming is tremendous – but also something to respect and handle properly, as the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell wrote from the Hornets’ stop in Shenzhen:
China has been very good to Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lin.
He has millions of followers on Weibo, the Chinese parallel of Twitter. He makes millions off endorsement deals for cars, sports apparel and sports drinks. He draws massive crowds on the mainland for every promotional appearance or basketball camp.
And then there’s the other side of being so famous in a country with more than 300 million basketball fans.
“It can be scary, too,” Lin said in a lengthy interview with the Observer. “When people somehow know what room I’m in, what floor I’m on. Fans aren’t supposed to get up that elevator, but somehow they do. And then they’re waiting for me and all I can say is, ‘You know you are not supposed to be up here?’
“If I am in China I always have a personal body guard, and if I’m making an appearance I’ll always have a team of security. The body guard is legit; he’s always there to stay by my door to hear every knock. Then I can be comfortable and feel safe.”
Lin is an Asian-American who played college basketball at Harvard. His parents immigrated to the United States from Taiwan and his grandparents were born and raise on mainland China.
No. 2: Metta World Peace: ‘It’s a baby’s game’ — Besides going global, the NBA allegedly is going soft. At least, that’s the opinion of Metta World Peace, who cites what he considers to be diminishing toughness in play and players compared to what greeted him as a rookie in 1999. Of course, World Peace was named Ron Artest back then, a reminder that lots of things have changed since then. His analysis came after the Lakers’ practice Saturday – he’s attempting a comeback at age 36, with a contract that isn’t guaranteed – and was reported by the Los Angeles Times, among others:
“I remember I came into the NBA in 1999, the game was a little bit more rough. The game now is more for kids. It’s not really a man’s game anymore,” World Peace said. “The parents are really protective of their children. They cry to their AAU coaches. They cry to the refs, ‘That’s a foul. That’s a foul.’
“Sometimes I wish those parents would just stay home, don’t come to the game, and now translated, these same AAU kids whose parents came to the game, ‘That’s a foul.’ These kids are in the NBA. So now we have a problem. You’ve got a bunch of babies professionally around the world.”
World Peace wasn’t quite done.
“It’s no longer a man’s game,” he said. “It’s a baby’s game. There’s softies everywhere. Everybody’s soft. Nobody’s hard no more. So, you just deal with it, you adjust and that’s it.”
On a nonguaranteed $1.5-million minimum contract, World Peace is hoping to make the Lakers’ 15-man roster for opening night. The team currently has 19 players almost midway through the preseason.
In his debut, World Peace gave the team’s second unit a boost against Utah, leaping over courtside seats while chasing down a loose ball last Tuesday. The Lakers would ultimately lose in overtime.
“I forgot that I was on a nonguaranteed contract when I dived,” World Peace said. “My brother reminded me, ‘What are you doing? You’re on a nonguaranteed contract. You’re going to kill yourself.’
“I was like ‘Oh wow, that’s right,’ but that’s the only way I know how to play, so I don’t care about a nonguaranteed contract. I just want to play hard.”
No. 3: Wizards’ Humphries stretching his game — So often, it’s NBA fans taking shots at and otherwise heckling journeyman forward Kris Humphries over his don’t-blink marriage into the schlock-famous Kardashian family (his marriage to Kim had a shelf life of 72 days, from vows uttered to divorce papers filed). This time, Humphries is the one taking shots – specifically, 3-point shots, a new challenge for him driven by the Washington Wizards’ recent embrace of small ball and the league’s trend of deep-threat big men. With Humphries doing work from the arc early in the Wizards’ preseason schedule, Ben Standig of CSNMidAtlantic.com wrote about this old dog’s new trick:
“This is a different game for me,” Humphries stated this week.
The obvious difference involves the 3-point shot, a non-factor in his game truly until this past offseason. Playing a traditional power forward role, Humphries attempted only 26 shots from beyond the arc for his career. That included seven last season. He missed them all. The last make came during his 2004-05 rookie season.
Through two preseason games, Humphries leads the Wizards with 10 attempts. Yes, change is coming.
“That’s what they want to do here. You kind of have to adapt to help your team,” Humphries said following Tuesday’s preseason opener. “I just wish I would have started shooting 3’s earlier. This is really like the first summer where I was like I’m going to work on my 3-point shooting. Before you might shoot a few corner 3’s or something in a workout. This year I was like, I’m going to work on it.”
Yet the actual deep shot isn’t the only distinction in the 6-foot-9 forward’s game this season. Anybody playing the 4-spot for Washington this season won’t simply be camped out in the lane for offensive rebounds or interior passes. The spread-the-floor philosophy deployed during last season’s playoff run is the primary staple now.
“It’s different, especially for me,” Humphries said. “I haven’t really played on the wing, like at the 3-point line to where I’m going to try to get an offensive rebound and then running back and then running again. It’s adding that extra [23 feet 9 inches] of running in there. It doesn’t seem like a lot but it catches up to you. It’ early on. I’ve just got a little extra shooting and conditioning — I’ve got to be in better shape if I’m going to play this way.”
Humphries went 2 of 4 on 3’s in Tuesday’s blowout win over the Philadelphia 76ers, but struggled in Friday’s loss to the New York Knicks, missing five of six attempts.
No. 4: Jordan touts NBA, Nike brand on trip — Michael Jordan, as the Hornets’ principal owner, a Nike icon and the NBA’s most recognizable ambassador, was in China with his team. Not known for his interview availability these days, His Airness did sit for a chat pegged to this trip, with the story carried in the Shanghai Daily. The Web site’s translation to English was a little spotty but it did capture some insights into Jordan:
Jordan visited China only once in 2004, which caused a national craze. “Ah, 11 years ago,” Jordan, talking about the visit in 2004, said what impressed him most was the Chinese fans. “You know the fans, the way they were passionate about game of basketball. Obviously they remember me playing, I enjoyed spending the time there,” Jordan recalled, “it gives me an opportunity after 11 years going back. It’s kind of reconnecting with the fans based over there. Jordan Brand fans, Michael Jordan fans, so I’m looking forward to it.”
As for Hornets’ prospects for the new season, Jordan showed his sober optimism. “They should be okay. We changed a lot of personnel. Everybody is excited I’m very excited but I don’t want to get overexcited.”
Jordan made specific mention of Jeremy Lin, who joined in the Hornets from the LA Lakers this summer. Jordan saw it a successful deal, “We just got Jeremy Lin, who I think is going to be our biggest acquisition. His penetration, his shooting capability, his point guard savvy, he can really pass the basketball, his energy about the game of basketball something,” Jordan said.
Jordan’s success derives from his desire to excel and unparalleled confidence, which, as he said, was an inborn instinct accompanying his growth.
“No point did I doubt my skills. As a basketball player, there are things I feel like I had to improve on, but in terms of confidence about me playing the basketball I never doubt that at all,” Jordan told Xinhua, even if when he entered NBA as a rookie in 1984, “Rookie? I always felt like I could play, I just need to learn, I considered myself the lowest on the totem pole but I know I have to work my way up, but I didn’t lack confidence at all. I lacked the experience.”
Jordan said that it was the game of basketball that gave him a chance to do a lot of different things and meet a lot of different people, affecting and inspiring them. “The game allowed me to touch a lot of people I probably would never be able to touch if I don’t play the game of basketball.”
Jordan said he hoped people looked at him from a lot of different aspects. “When you see Michael Jordan you are going to see him in the sense that he is very versatile. He adapted, he looked at challenges, he looked at things can make himself better and he worked hard at it. So I would like people when they look at Michael Jordan is an all-around, good person, good competitor, good businessman, good basketball player, all the above.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were planning to put their proximity to Michael Jordan to good use on the Clippers’ and the Hornets’ China trip. … Paul’s broken left index finger, which kept him out of Sunday’s game in Shenzhen, reportedly won’t sideline the Clippers point guard for long or pose much of a problem. … LeBron James might own motorcycles but that doesn’t necessarily mean he rides motorcycles. Ditto for that motorcycle helmet and wearing it or not. … Kevin Love participated in his first full 5-on-5 practice with the Cavaliers since undergoing shoulder surgery during the playoffs. … The Hornets’ Steve Clifford is trying to stay flexible and be creative in moving lineup pieces around to pick up injured wing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s slack. … Derrick Williams‘ contract might wind up getting blamed by New York Knicks fans for hurting the team’s chances of landing Kevin Durant in free agency next summer. But for now, the underachieving former No. 2 pick in the draft has shown signs of “getting it” and might actually help this season. … Washington anticipates bumps along Otto Porter‘s learning curve as he tries to fill Trevor Ariza‘s and Paul Pierce’s veteran shoes. … Relieved that his New York criminal trial is over, a vindicated Thabo Sefolosha scrambles to catch up with Atlanta Hawks teammates. He might play Wednesday. …