from the Knicks and Team Shaq passing the ball as Evan Turner of the
Philadelphia 76ers and Team Chuck closes in during the Rising Stars
Challenge in Orlando on Friday night.
Linsanity? Jeremy Lin prefers something he is more familiar with.
'I just like Jeremy. I want to
make sure I don't change as a person, and I don't let any of this get to
me,' he told The Sunday Times on Friday.
That takes some doing. Lin's rise from the
deepest reaches of the New York Knicks' bench has not just been embraced
by America, but by most of the world. Hits from Singapore to the club's
official website have increased by some 40 times since his 25-point
explosion against the New Jersey Nets on Feb 4, when the injury-racked
Knicks turned to him out of desperation.
Even the beginning of the All-Star weekend has
become All-Lin Friday, with the 23-year-old getting his own press
conference, a privilege enjoyed by only one other man - National
Basketball Association commissioner David Stern.
'It's surreal, getting just any press
conference of my own in general, let alone All-Star Weekend,' said Lin.
'I'm just trying to take it all in and enjoy it every step of the way.'
In the packed interview room of the Amway
Centre, where he faced some 100 reporters from Japan, South Korea, China
and even India with a constant smile, he talked about his fame, his
family and his heritage, not just as the league's first
Taiwanese-American player, but as an Asian trying to prove himself on
basketball's biggest stage.
When asked if his ethnicity was one reason why he was for so long overlooked by college recruiters and NBA scouts, Lin admitted:
'I think it has something to do with it. I
don't know how much. But I think just being Asian-American, I'm going to
have to prove myself again and again.
'I know a lot of people say I'm deceptively
athletic, but I'm not sure what's 'deceptive'. It could be the fact 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.
'I'm very proud to be Asian-American and I love it.'
And so do the fans, saving the biggest roars
for him during Friday morning practice, and then when he came out at
night. He had been selected at the last minute for former NBA star
Shaquille O'Neal's team for the Rising Stars challenge, after becoming
the only player to score more than 20 points in each of his first five
Said Steve Kerr, the former Chicago Bulls star
who coached Team Shaq: 'When Jeremy got his opportunity, he didn't just
grab it. He choked it by the neck.
'He took over that whole franchise, which is
stunning, because it's New York and it's Carmelo Anthony and Amare
Stoudemire. You've got stars, you've got the media capital of the
It was a savvy decision by Stern to capitalise
on the NBA's hottest star, but Lin was on the court for less than nine
minutes, finishing with just two points as his Team Shaq lost 133-146 to
Team Chuck, led by another retired NBA star, Charles Barkley.
The Cleveland Cavaliers' rookie Kyrie Irving,
who is an Australian-American dual citizen, took the Most Valuable
Player award with 34 points, although Lin's limited minutes were exactly
what he asked for.
'I didn't want to play a
back-to-back-to-back,' said the Harvard graduate, having played for the
Knicks against Atlanta and Miami in the two preceding days.
It also fit with the way he has been nurturing
his cult status, making sure it did not steal all the attention from
the other young players trying to make a name for themselves.
Lin is hoping that all the fuss dies down, eventually.
He said: 'I'm surprised that people are still
talking about Linsanity. Hopefully, as the season progresses, and the
Knicks win games and make a good push after the All-Star break, people
will start talking about the Knicks and not necessarily me.'
But for now, he is Lin-demand.