The New York media tour for Jeremy Lin continues, as the most interesting player on the Brooklyn Nets and from next season, their biggest star, goes on a round of interviews shedding some light on who he is as a player and person as he returns to the big apple.
He gave Steve Serby of the New York Post a lengthy and interesting interview, and I thought a few of the points he made and the directions he took it to deserves a little bit of expanding on, as they seem to be things that for those who have followed him closely since he left the Knicks, through the winding road with the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and Charlotte Hornets, aren’t very surprising or new, but come as news for a lot of Nets fans, and those who still think Lin is the same player from 2012.
The question in this case was what stereotype on the basketball bothers you the most?
Lin touched on something we’ve mentioned in the past, and that’s the perception of him. The media or a vocal portion of NBA fans set a certain perception, and it resonates, without anyone actually forming their own opinion. People decide, based on what analysts, bloggers and fans tell them, instead of actually watching, or even looking up some stat sheets that go beyond the regular box score. Many think that Lin is still a bad defender and some sort of wild, reckless turnover machine, while he’s come a long way in becoming a much smarter passer, and especially a much better defender. Quick hands, strong upper body and quick feet make him capable of staying with anybody, not to mention his ability to anticipate plays for steals and blocked shots.
The question here was what are your thoughts on flagrant fouls against you that are not called?
This was two questions after Lin was asked about racism and how he handles it. The perception and defense issues also stem from the same root: People who don’t try to gain too much insight but are satisfied with what the media serves them, might see Lin as a smart guy, but not quick, tall or strong enough to be really good in the NBA. Racism? maybe. Are the flagrant fouls part of some anti-Lin thing from certain players who don’t like him, or something weird going on with referees? Hard to tell. What is easy to spot is that this wasn’t some isolated incident of someone smacking Lin’s face, and a referee missing a call. There’s a pattern here, a worrying one, which the NBA was called out about, and of course said there’s not malicious intention behind the calls, and even more so: The calls were the right ones according to the NBA. The popularity of the video and the debate it stirred was an example of the power fans have in general when trying to bring something to the attention of a wider public, and Lin fans specifically.
This wasn’t a question, but more of a leading remark. After being asked about his parting with the New York Knicks, Lin was told “Now Linsanity will be in Brooklyn“.
Linsanity is a great way for media, blogs, etc. to get clicks and sell headlines. It’s a catchphrase that spread like like wildfire four years ago, but also defines Lin in a manner that no longer fits him. It fits for a specific time, long gone by now. Personally, I hope to see as little of it as possible during his time with the Nets and the rest of his career, wherever it takes him. Lin himself is trying to move on from the term and the period However, if Lin and the Nets do well, it won’t be surprising to see it mentioned again, and again, and again.
The question was if you could pick the brain of one person in basketball history, who would it be?
This goes back to a popular comparison between Lin and Nash earlier in his career. Nash had an anticlimactic ending to his NBA career, hardly playing for the Los Angeles Lakers while his back was killing him among other injuries. But for a decade or so, he was one of the more fun-to-watch players in the NBA. Nash wasn’t perfect, and was hopeless on defense, but his ability to make everyone around him better while being a lethal shooter and incredibly difficult player to defend against resulted in two MVP awards (we’ll leave the debate to deserved or not for some other time) and a real contender on the Phoenix Suns, with sublime basketball, that couldn’t quite go all the way.
Is Lin like Nash? In some ways. He’s a much better defender. He isn’t as good of a shooter, at least not so far. I think he has the potential to come close to Nash as a passer. Maybe not the exact numbers (during his time with the Suns Nash averaged 10.9 assists per game), but the general idea – making players around him, even limited and mediocre ones happier and as good as they can be. Another thing worth remembering is Nash really coming out of his shell rather late in his career, at age 26-27, and won his MVP at 30. Lin is 27, finally getting a team of his own to run. There’s a very bright future ahead.