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Lin just wants to be Jeremy

2/26/2012 9:12:19 AM
Jeremy Lin 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 NBA starts.

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 world.'

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.

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