Tag Archives: knicks

Why Kevin Durant Should Choose the Knicks in Free Agency

So I’ve had a lot of free time during my Sabbatical, and while pondering relatively heavy topics along with the rest of the country in recent days, my mind has meandered to other (less) significant topics like NBA Free Agency.

Specifically, I’ve been thinking about Kevin Durant and the team he will play for next season (and Jeremy Lin, of course, but Durant seems to carry a bit more intrigue around the country right now).

Put simply, I think Durant should choose to play for the Knicks.

Before you label me foolish or misguided, please allow me to list why he should choose the Knicks over everyone else.

1) The Knicks play in the Eastern Conference, a far more desirable Conference to play in than the West.  If Durant’s main goal is to win a championship, then it makes sense that the easiest path to the Championship goes through the East.

Of course, the Cavs are the defending champs and defeating them is no small task, but the last I checked the Western Conference still has perennial winners in the Golden State Warriors, the Spurs, the Thunder, the Clippers, and the up-and-coming T-wolves and Pelicans.  The Eastern Conference offers a far easier path to the Championship than the Western Conference – both now and in the foreseeable future.

2) Of the 3 Eastern Conference Teams that Durant will meet with – Boston, Miami, and the Knicks – the Knicks have the best supporting cast.  I know, this is arguable, especially since both the Celtics and Heat performed far better than the Knicks last year (almost everyone performed better than the Knicks, btw).

However, the trade for Rose changes everything.  I should clarify – the trade for Rose in his contract year changes everything.

I know Bulls fans might be skeptical of Rose’s ability to stay healthy, but if he is healthy, the trio of Rose (contract year, 27 years-old, transcendent talent if he’s on top of his game), Porzingis (potentially transcendent player who’s only 21?!?!), and Melo (transcendent talent whom I hope is not past his prime).

Moreover, if Rose doesn’t work out, Durant can recruit Westbrook to come play in New York next year.

Which of the other Eastern Conference teams can offer this kind of combination of youth/talent?  Boston has youth but they’re not quite as talented, and Miami has talent but they’re not quite as young (even Whiteside seems uncertain that he’ll stay).

Moreover, this is NEW YORK CITY we’re talking about.

Winning ONE championship in New York would mean more than winning multiple championships anywhere else.

I know, this makes NO sense to non-New Yorkers.

But ANYONE who’s lived in NYC knows what I’m talking about, and knows that it’s true.

3) Why Durant shouldn’t join any of the other Western Conference Teams 

  • The Clippers – I’m surprised they got a meeting.  I don’t think they have the talent/youth to make a case for being a perennial winner, especially in the Western Conference.
  • The Warriors – As good a thing as the Warriors have going on, I can’t imagine that Durant would join a historically great team to chase a ring.  I know people dogged Lebron for ring-chasing by joining the Heat, but there’s no way that can compare to Durant joining a 73-win team as a free agent.  Granted, I think Steph is awesome and is one of the most humble superstars whom anyone would love to play with, but yeah, I just can’t see Durant joining them because it would be almost too easy.
    • Sidenote: In addition, it must be SO awkward right now on the Olympic Team.  With Klay, Draymond, and Barnes playing on the squad (along with Durant), how weird must it be for them knowing that if Durant comes, Barnes has to go.  While Melo can be unabashed in his wooing of KD, Klay and Draymond must understandably walk a fine line when talking about Durant, especially if they’re pals with Barnes, which the team chemistry on GSW seems to indicate.
  • The Spurs – I don’t think Durant can choose the Spurs over OKC, especially after OKC beat them in the playoffs this year.  I’m sure any consideration of the Spurs would stop when Westbrook gets in Durant’s ear and says, “How can you join them after we beat them in 6?!”
  • The Thunder – I seriously think it’s going to come down to the Thunder or the Knicks, especially after the Ibaka-Oladipo trade last week.  Seriously, the Thunder are loaded with Oladipo/Sabonis, and with Adams’ emergence, I think the Thunder are going to have some major swag heading into next season if their full team comes back. The only thing that makes OKC less desirable is…
    • Familiarity Breeds Boredom – I wonder if KD wants to feel what it’s like to play somewhere else.  I think Lebron had a little bit of this when he joined Miami.  I think we all do.  The grass can seem greener somewhere else.
    • Westbrook’s Team Now? – I wonder if KD would like to go to a team where he’s the clear go-to guy.  I think his friendship with Russell is real, but yeah, I’m wondering if KD would like to go somewhere where he’s clearly the #1 option. Sidenote: This is also what makes the GSW jump less likely.  I think it’d be personal if Durant leaves Westbrook to play with Curry.  This might be reading too much into it, but yeah, since Russ & KD are boys, I think Westbrook would be hurt/angered if Durant went to GSW, and I think Durant would also feel disloyal if he were to do that to Russ.  Uh, this is obviously total conjecture because I know neither Russ nor KD personally.
    • How important is it for Durant to play in the Eastern Conference?  Again, if this matters to KD – which I think it should – then I think KD should choose the Knicks.

One super-random wild card in all this is that KD considers Carl Lentz, pastor of Hillsong NY, his good friend and pastor.  I love it.

Carl, let’s make this happen.

So there you have it.

KD, become a legend in NYC.

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Jeremy Lin, Race, and Proving Oneself

I posted a few days ago that I preferred for Jeremy Lin to play on the Rockets.

With that said, I was shocked to see the Knicks decline to match the offer.

I think what’s been so shocking to me is the recent analysis from some Knicks fans and other pundits (Stephen A Smith and Frank Isola come to mind) who have dismissed Lin’s ability, competitive spirit, and motivation (money).

Doubting Lin’s longevity, I can understand.

Doubting Lin’s consistency over 82 games and playoffs, I can understand.

But please don’t tell me the kid can’t play (can’t go left, questionable jumper, turnover prone, etc), lacks heart, and is driven by money. 

It’s baffling to me when people ignore the data.  Lin played well last year.  He had one bad game against the Heat, and consider it was only one bad game with every team gunning for him.

The data shows that Lin is a better player than Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd right now.

Listen, even I was a doubter of Lin.  Coming into the league, I thought at best he would be a solid backup for the right team.  I likened his game to Kyle Lowry (former point guard of the Rockets, ironically enough) when he first came into the NBA.  I would have been thrilled if Lin just got regular minutes on a team.

But this past year, Lin continued to prove me wrong.  He proved everybody wrong.  Time and again, Lin showed he’s a high caliber player in the NBA, capable of being elite and even carrying a team at times as the lead guard.

For 26 games, Lin was a terrific rookie (practically speaking) point guard last year.

We call some guys can’t-miss after 25 college gms. But 25 starts vs NBA comp. proves nothing? Y consider #Lin fraudulent, not promising?

Of course, I needed to confirm whether Lin’s play was all hype with no substance. So what did I do?  I looked at the data.

And the data is that Lin really did play well and elevate the performance of his team and teammates.

When it comes to money, Lin wasn’t the one who went fishing for more money from the Rockets – it was the Rockets who pursued Lin with a bigger deal.  To suggest that Lin was devious in upping the salary is silly considering it was the Knicks who publicly laid out their cards too early, thereby giving a chance for the Rockets to up their offer even further.

I did not expect such a strong smear campaign to come from “reliable Knicks sources”.

————

As an Asian-American, I’ll admit that the criticism toward Lin has stung a bit more.

As odd as this may sound, the Lin bashing felt personal, as if people were pushing around my kid brother.

Even though I wanted Lin to go to the Rockets, I’m actually disappointed at the Knicks and some of the media.

I’m mad enough that I was tempted to write a blog post in comic sans font claiming that Jeremy Lin would win a championship before the Knicks do.

Alas, I don’t know how to switch to comic sans on this blog.

It’s hard for me to believe that race isn’t involved in the critique of Lin’s game or his motives, especially when people ignore the data or choose to believe unnamed sources after Jeremy himself has come out and described the free agency process for himself.

So far, no Knicks source has come forward to claim the truth about how the negotiations went down.

So the smear campaign has begun.

————–

Whether it’s true or not that Lin’s game and motives have been dismissed because of his race, I realize this is the burden of being a minority in this country – the haunting suspicion that a slight or critique is due to one’s race.

The African-American community certainly feels this more acutely when there are slights (which many of us are so unaware of), but I think it’s also common for any minority.

It’s hard NOT to be sensitive and reactive to perceived slights.

But what’s harder, perhaps, is to receive those slights, push them away with firm yet gracious hands, and then go gang busters in proving the naysayers wrong.

At the end of the day, that’s probably the best that we can do when we are slighted, though.

We can either get too angry or get too soft, but somewhere in the middle is the way of redemption, the way of the cross and resurrection.

And so we absorb the criticism, maintain our identity as one whose Center is true, share our perspective in non-reactive ways, and then prove naysayers wrong with furious truth and love.

This is how redemption comes, I believe.

Furious truth and love… … in this case, on the basketball court.

Jeremy, I’m still rooting for you as hard as ever.

Thoughts on Jeremy Lin’s Free Agency

I’ve decided to end my blog silence with a topic that’s been pressing on my heart – Jeremy Lin’s free agency.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’d love to see Jeremy Lin on the Rockets

Yes, I have a newborn in the home as well as a new church plant to deal with, but this is what I choose to write about.  Clearly, I still have Linsanity.

Anyhow, what I’m about to write might go against popular opinion in New York, and it actually pains me to admit what I’m about to say.

But alas, I must admit, as a pure Jeremy Lin basketball fan, I think Lin should go to the Rockets.

Before I go into why, you should probably know that 1) I personally would like for Lin to stay in NYC and come to Hope Church NYC, 2) I am unabashedly only a Knicks fan insofar as Lin is on the team, and 3) I am not a Rockets fan in particular (for anyone wondering, my team is the LA Clippers).

With all that said, I think Lin should go to the Rockets, and here’s why:

1.  Lin thrived as the lead player during Linsanity – and so did the Knicks.  The numbers don’t lie.  Sure, they may have played weaker opponents, but Lin still played exceptionally well against playoff caliber teams (Lakers, Jazz, Mavs) and players (Deron Williams) while playing with equally anonymous players (Novak, Shumpert, Jeffries – Chandler being the only exception).

The Knicks were 8-1 when Lin played the role of lead playmaker until Melo returned in a loss to the New Jersey Nets.

The last game in which the Knicks were “Lin’s team” was when he lit up Dallas for 28 points and 14 assists.

In those nine games with Lin as the lead guard, he averaged 25 pts/game and 9.2 assists/game.

Plus, anyone who followed the Knicks run during that time period could see there was an obvious enthusiasm on the team and a raised level of play.

Lin never had an opportunity to be the lead player for the Knicks after Melo returned.  I’m trying to state this without being biased here…

2.  With Melo and Stat around and with Woodson coaching, we will likely never see Lin in a lead role again.  

There are a lot of folks talking about how overrated Lin is and how his play tailed off as the season progressed.

Lin’s numbers did regress, as did the Knicks’ stats as a whole, but I’d argue that it was because of the changing dynamics on the team that demanded that Lin change his game, NOT because Lin isn’t capable of leading a ball club.

Now, I say this as a completely biased Lin fanatic – in my opinion, Lin was not the main reason for the drop-off in performance by the Knicks.

Lin had to change his game to accommodate Melo, Stat, and eventually Mike Woodson.

I think I can speak for millions of Lin fans (and a few Knicks fans) out there when I say that I wish I could have seen how far Lin could have taken the team as the lead player.

“There’s no way he’s Melo!  There’s no way he’s an elite guard!  Lin got exposed against Miami!”

You might say all of these things, but the sad thing is, we never had a chance to see if Lin could be an elite lead guard.

His game had to change when Melo and Stat came back, and Woodson made it clear that he didn’t think too highly of Lin.

But again, the sad thing is, we never had a chance to see if Lin could be an elite lead guard after he lit up the World Champion Mavericks for 28 and 14.     

3.  I want to see how well Jeremy can do as a lead player for the whole season.  As a huge Jeremy Lin fan who reveled in the euphoria of Linsanity, I need to see how Lin can do when given the chance to be a lead player for an entire season.

I know there are a bunch of people out there who claim Lin is overrated, but the ONLY data we have of Lin as a lead guard is the 8-1 streak they were on.

This website is super helpful when talking about Lin’s impressive statistics and how anyone who discounts his accomplishments are not looking at the data (perhaps they’re looking more at his race?).

I’m convinced that Lin can never be the same player he was for the Knicks when Melo and Stat were out because Melo, Stat, and Woodson will not allow him to be.  I’m sure anyone who watches the Knicks will agree with me that Lin’s game clearly changed when Melo and Stat came back, and then even more when Woodson became the head coach.

The Rockets, however, just might allow Lin the opportunity to be the lead player for their team, and that excites me.

Seeing this possibility excites me more than all the positives of Jeremy staying in NYC (being a global icon, watching him play regularly, having Jeremy come to Hope, etc).

I want to see Jeremy flourish as a player, and I think he has a better opportunity for that on the Rockets.

4)  And quite frankly, the current Knicks team with Melo, Stat, and Woodson leading the charge is just not as fun to watch.

You can tell me if I’m biased, but honestly, the Knicks are not a fun team to watch anymore.

Am I missing something?  Please tell me if you disagree.

I’m actually really curious to hear if anyone thinks this version of the team is as fun to watch as the no-name version during Linsanity…   

All in all, I’m sure the Knicks will match the offer, and I’ll continue to watch and root for the Knicks and Jeremy, constantly wondering what was during Linsanity and what could have been if someone had the guts to let Jeremy be Jeremy on a basketball court…

And I guarantee the Garden won’t be nearly as electric as it was back in February 2012.

Jeremy Lin, Friendship, & Needing Someone to Believe in You When No One Else Does

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Jeremy's family seems really close knit.

Linsanity continues.  Jeremy Lin just hit a game winning 3-ball against the Toronto Raptors.  I dunno what to say.

Actually, I do, which is why I’m blogging yet again about Jeremy Lin.

In my last post, I wrote about how there were so many circumstances where it would have been reasonable for Jeremy to quit on his dream of playing professional basketball.

Jeremy is certainly in the spotlight for having persevered through it all, and it’s well chronicled how his faith has been so meaningful for him.

Part of faith though, and any spiritual journey really, is the influence and support of others, usually found in the safety of family and friends.

I’m always warmed by the stories of Jeremy’s family, and he seems to talk often about how supportive and close-knit his family is.  Awesome.

There’s no doubt that Jeremy could not have done this without the steady, consistent support of his family, and I’m always tickled to witness bonded families like his, because I’m reminded of how much my family has meant to me too.

Support systems are necessary for anyone trying to persevere through trial, and if you’ve ever been in a particularly deep valley you know what I mean, either because the acute loneliness led you deeper into an abyss or because the outstretched arms of a loved one pulled you up from the mire.

For as long as I’ve followed Jeremy, there’s one person apart from his family that stands out as a “believer” in Jeremy when no one else thought he had the chops to make it to the NBA. I’m sure there are others who advocated for Jeremy through his doubts, including a litany of friends and church folk, but I wanted to bring up the one person I know was clearly publicly rooting for Jeremy even when he had many reasons to doubt or quit his prospects at pro ball (I don’t know if this person is a personal friend – I’m just saying he’s specifically a strong supporter basketball-wise).

Again, this post is just based on some public information, not any personal information.  Jeremy’s take might be quite different, but I’m pretty sure this one person had some kind of impact on Jeremy’s belief that he could be where he is today.

—-

I started following Jeremy Lin back in January ’09 after he had a remarkable game against Boston College, a Division 1 program that had just beaten the number 1 team in the country, the UNC Tarheels.

Jeremy’s story mixes some of my greatest passions (as you can see by these string of blog posts), including faith, sports, and race, and so I googled everything about the kid shortly after the BC game.

I read of his high school exploits, his involvement at AACF at Harvard, and how his dad was a basketball junkie.  Yes, these are all the things that everyone has discovered in the past week and a half – I knew a couple of years early because I was intrigued by the upset win against BC.

In my research of Lin, I actually came across the blog of one person who was more obsessed than I was.  The guy seemed to love hoops, and he would rave about Jeremy and the kind of player he was.  He seemed to go to a ton of Harvard games to specifically scout Lin.

And crazy enough, back in 2009, this guy called it by saying that Jeremy Lin should be playing in the NBA one day.  No one else was saying this.  NO ONE (well, there was also this one other stat geek).

The guy’s twitter handle is @poormanscommish, and Poor Man’s Commish was Lin’s biggest advocate (Poor Man’s Commish admits that Brian Yang, a personal friend of Lin’s was the first to bring Lin to his attention, though).  Poor Man’s Commish put up extensive scouting reports and analyses of different players that Lin was competing against, and he even put himself out there by saying that Lin was a bona fide 1st round NBA pick.  Please click on that last link to see just how thorough Poor Man’s Commish’s analysis was.

With Lin’s success today, it’s amazing at just how prophetic Poor Man’s Commish was.

Which brings me to a recent discovery.

Poor Man’s Commish hadn’t talked to the Lins in awhile, but after Jeremy’s breakout game against the Nets (his first game with extensive minutes where he had 25 points and 7 assists), he “got an email from [Jeremy’s] mom saying, “I know we haven’t talked in awhile, but thank you for your support.”

One of the first few to get a message from Jeremy’s mom after his breakout game last week was Poor Man’s Commish.  The belief that Poor Man’s Commish had in Jeremy during his college years was special enough for Jeremy’s mom to remember him and reach out to him when all this Linsanity started.

Why?

I suspect it’s because Poor Man’s Commish believed in Jeremy when no one else would. 

We tend to remember those people that believe in us when no one else does.

We tend to thank them, too.

—–

There’s this story in the Bible of a man who was paralyzed.  We’re not told how he was paralyzed or how long he’s been paralyzed – we just know he’s paralyzed.

And rumor has spread that there’s  a man named Jesus who is in town, an extraordinary person who has demonstrated remarkable power through his healing and teachings.

Naturally, people crowd around to witness the phenomenon of this miracle worker, and they cram into the house where he’s teaching.

We’re told that there are friends who have carried the paralyzed man to meet Jesus.  It’s too crowded to get the paralyzed man through the door, though.

So what do these friends do?  They dig a hole through the roof of the house and lower the man inside.

The writer tells us, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”

A theological debate ensues regarding physical healing and spiritual healing, but one of the startling revelations of this passage is what I emboldened and italicized above – this paralyzed man is somehow healed as a result of Jesus seeing the faith of his friends, not necessarily the faith of this man, the text tells us.

I don’t know all the ins and outs of this passage or the theological implications therein.  But I do know this about this passage and about faith:

Sometimes, we need people to believe for us, especially when no one else does.  In fact, miracles can happen when we ride the faith of a genuine community of supporters.

In God’s economy, he gives us the shelter of a one another as a “body of Christ”, a group of fellow believers who hurt with us, cry with us, rejoice with us, and believe in us and for us – even when we don’t.

Having the support and belief of others is as spiritual as life can get, because that’s how God created us to function in this world.

Like Jeremy, we tend to remember those people that believe in us when no one else does.

We tend to thank them, too.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 

– Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Jeremy Lin, God’s Sovereignty, Human Will, and an Improbable Story

Update (2/16/2012):  This interview in the San Jose Mercury News and this interview in the NY Daily News shows Jeremy’s faith perspective that I’ve written about in this post.  Great reads!

Caveat: For those of you who are not religious, this post might sound like I’m spiritualizing this Jeremy Lin story, and to some degree I am, because faith in God informs the way I see the world.  I hope you can read this and get a window into how my faith informs my everyday life.  Most of this post is basketball-related anyway.

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

– Soren Kierkegaard (Danish Philosopher).

The Improbable Story of Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin dropped 38 points and 7 assists on the Lakers last night, continuing an unbelievable run the past four games.

In his last three starts, Lin has scored more points than anyone in their first three starts since the NBA merger.  In other words, that’s more than Jordan, Magic, Bird, Lebron, Kobe, etc.

This is crazy.  Really crazy.

I posted on my facebook wall that this story is getting more ridiculous every passing game, and it’s so amazing that it’s hard to believe that God is not involved.

My buddy asked about whether I was speaking about the outcome of these games, again bringing up one of the age-old debates about whether God cares about who wins or loses sporting contests.

I’m not smart enough to know about whether God cares about the outcomes of games, I explained.  I was speaking more about Lin finding himself in this position in the first place and now making the most of it.

There are so many obstacles for Lin to have fought through to get where is today, and as a Christian who sees things through the lens of God’s sovereignty, I’m really amazed at how Jeremy has ended up here in New York for this very moment, and how easily this could NOT have happened.

Some call the workings of various circumstances toward a teleological end fate, but as someone who believes in a transcendent yet personal God, I call it God’s sovereignty.

The thing about God’s sovereignty is that it’s by-and-large a mystery.  The only way we can get a glimmer of understanding, if any, is if we can look back and see the ways God has brought us to where we are today.  The topsy turvy hills and valleys of our journeys can all be better examined looking backward, rather than in the moment, because then we can see some of the rhyme behind God’s invisible hand.

So as Kierkegaard reminds us, we are to live forward in light of God’s sovereignty, exercising our human will to move ahead with all the stuffs that a godward life entails – integrity, perseverance, servitude, justice, and benevolence.

And then we can look back on the things we had no control over, and then possibly be able to say, “wow, God was in it.  I didn’t see Him, feel Him, or hear Him – but He was behind it all.”

In the present, we often don’t realize what He’s doing or why He’s orchestrating things the way He is.  But we live forward, trusting that God will “work things to the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28), a verse that Jeremy himself has quoted in recent days.

With that said, I want to share how I believe this Jeremy Lin story is pregnant with themes of God’s sovereignty and Jeremy’s perseverance, working together in what theologians call divine concurrence for a reason that is still unfolding today.

These are just my thoughts as a pastor – I have never talked to Jeremy, nor do I want to represent his thoughts.  I’m simply tying his improbable story to some insight into how I believe God works in our lives.

1.  The Story of Jeremy’s Perseverance.

There are so many things that Jeremy had no control over that could have led him to quit basketball through the years.

Consider the following list:

– He’s Asian American.  There are no other full-blooded Asian Americans playing in the NBA, and none who have made it in the recent past.  I’ve mentioned why I believe this is the case in a previous post, but the fact that there are virtually no models of success in the NBA can be a challenge for anyone trying to be the first.

– He wasn’t offered a Division 1 scholarship, so he “settled” for Harvard.  He led his high school team to the state title in California (a very impressive feat), but still wasn’t recruited to a Division 1 team.

– Harvard didn’t make it to the NCAA tournament.  Even though he led a renaissance at Harvard, Cornell toppled them and he didn’t have a chance to showcase his game in the NCAA tournament for NBA scouts.

– He wasn’t drafted to the NBA.  By this time, he had a Harvard degree, and probably had college friends with many job offers or grad school applications lined up. I’m sure there was a huge temptation to “just” get a job at McKinsey.

– Jeremy had to claw for minutes on a Las Vegas summer league team that already had two heralded guards ahead of him – Roddy Beaubois and Dominique Jones.

– After performing in summer league, He got  signed by the Warriors, but he languished on Golden State’s bench last year, and was assigned to the D-League for several stints.

– Golden State drafted two guards in the 2011 draft, Charles Jenkins and Klay Thompson, signaling their lack of confidence in Lin to come in and be a contributor in 2012.

– Golden State waived Lin at the start of training camp, not even giving him a chance to show his improvement over the offseason.

– Lin signed with the Houston Rockets, but was behind Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, and Johnny Flynn on the depth chart.  He barely got any run in a shortened training camp and pre-season (Lowry and Dragic are proven players, and Flynn was once a high first round draft pick in the draft), and he was waived again after a couple of weeks.

– Lin was then claimed off waivers by the Knicks at the start of the season.

– Throughout December-January, Lin barely played any minutes, mostly in garbage time, and saw the Knicks fall to 8-15 as their point guard play was atrocious.  Lin still had the highest PER on the team during that time, but still no hint that D’Antoni was going to give him significant minutes.  Tom and I went to a game where the Knicks lost to the now 3-23 Charlotte Bobcats at MSG.  Lin didn’t get any playing time in that game.

– The Knicks were about to cut Lin before the weekend.  Lin already got sent to the D-League once.

– Even after the first three Linsanity games this past week, doubters have said he’s a fluke and a flash in the pan, and that he’ll revert to being a marginal player.

—-

Through all of these reasons to “quit”, Jeremy persevered.  He worked on his game and body, and did whatever was asked of him.  He didn’t complain, he just went about pursuing his dream, playing in d-league games at empty arenas, sleeping on his brother’s couch, working out as much as possible.

In other words, he worked his butt off to become a legitimate NBA player.  Even with every setback, he persevered.

The guy has a Harvard degree.  There are so many other things he could have done with his life, especially as the demotions mounted for him.  But he kept at it, believing that God was at work too.

—–

2.  The Story of God’s sovereignty: Where else besides the 2012 NY Knicks could Jeremy have gotten this opportunity?  

Consider the following:

– If Jeremy had stayed with his hometown Warriors, would he have had a legitimate shot at being the starting point guard?  No.  Monta Ellis, Steph Curry, Nate Robinson, and Charles Jenkins would have to have all gotten hurt or played horribly for Lin to have gotten significant minutes.  Ellis, Curry, and Robinson are all young, proven players in the league.

– If Jeremy had stayed with the Rockets, would he have had a legitimate shot at being the starting point guard?  No.  Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, and Johnny Flynn would have to have all gotten hurt or played horribly for Lin to have gotten significant minutes.  Lowry, Dragic, and Flynn have all started for teams and are all young, proven players in the league.

– Is there another team in the league that had as bad a point guard situation as the Knicks?  Maybe… the Lakers?  The only proven guard on the Knicks is Bibby, but he’s past his prime and is a backup at best.  The Lakers have Fisher whose also past his prime, but he’s a landmark on the Lakers and there’s little chance Lin could have started above Fish and/or Blake.

– D’Antoni had his back against the wall – He tried Toney Douglas, Iman Shumpert, and Bibby at the point, all to very little success.  People were calling for D’Antoni to get fired, as the pressure was building for him and the Knicks continued their atrocious play, especially at point guard.  It had gotten to the point where it was almost as if D’Antoni was forced to play Lin – what could possibly be worse than the production the Knicks were getting?

– D’Antoni’s system actually plays to Jeremy’s strengths: savvy point guard play and the pick n roll.  Even if Lin had played on the Warriors or the Rockets, he would not have had as suitable system (I believe) as the Knicks.

It’s New York – Of all the places he ended up, he’s in the one city where there’s an opportunity for having a global impact.  And to tell you the truth, more than most cities, New York is the kind of city that will give you props if you get results, regardless of how you look (to some degree – I do believe personal and systemic racism/sexism exists).  If you don’t produce, then the city will be unforgiving.  But if you do produce, you’ll get the love.

And so somehow, of all the places Jeremy could have ended up, he comes to MSG, the most historic basketball arena in the world, and lives his dream.

– Despite all the naysayers, Jeremy had a group of people around him – notably his family – who continued to encourage him and support him through everything.

There’s a story in the Bible of a guy named Joseph, and it’s a bit silly to compare Joseph to Jeremy considering Joseph was dealing with significant betrayals, family strife, and the future course of nations, plights a bit more arduous than getting waived by a basketball team.

But Jeremy’s story is similar in that he’s had to persevere through all the setbacks, live with integrity and not take any shortcuts, and somehow be in a place where he can make his unique impact on the world.

At the end of an improbable journey of trial after trial, Joseph utters these words, “What you intended for evil, God meant for good.”

And that’s the Christian story – not that everything is happy go lucky, but that there are many “deaths” along the journey, moments when hopes are dashed and the feeling of quitting is a constant, rattling noise in our subconscious.  Some of the “deaths” are a result of actions we had control over, but it can be really frustrating when the “deaths” are things we have no power over (things like accidents, our health, job losses, getting waived, etc).

But the Christian story says that resurrection is available for those who stick with it, for those who will trust and obey, even in the darkest times, as God does his invisible work to accomplish His purposes.  Life is about persevering through the “deaths” because we believe a gracious God is at work, working in us that we might experience rebirth day by day.

Death and Resurrection – That’s the improbable story of Jeremy Lin.

But much, much larger than that is the story of another death and resurrection, a moment in history where the Son of God would come to this world out of His great love, persevere so that people might know the miracle of God’s heart for people and an abundant life that is found in Him.  He would die too, a literal death on a cross, as a real way of demonstrating his love for us.  You see, this death was necessary for God to take on our grief and shame and all the trappings of human sinfulness by dying a death we all deserve and will encounter one day, just so that we might know…

Resurrection.

Death and Resurrection.

That’s the original, improbable, yet ever so compelling, story of Jesus.

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.

– 1 Peter 1:3-5 (The Message Translation)

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.

– 2 Corinthians 4:17 (The Message Translation)

Jeremy Lin, Why I Believe Asian Americans Love Him, and the Recipe for Linsanity

If you haven’t heard by now, there’s a fellow by the name of Jeremy Lin who has taken NYC by storm as a point guard for the NY Knicks.  Nation-wide, Lin has also captured the affections of many Asian-Americans, as well as others who are enamored by his underdog story.

Jeremy Lin is the starting point guard for the New York Knicks and is averaging 25.3 points and 8.3 assists in the last three games (all wins).

I wrote about Lin a year and a half ago and shared why he’s my favorite player, and it’s hard to believe all that’s happened in the past three games.  It seems like just yesterday when Tom Kim and I were discussing what it would take for D’Antoni to play the kid.

After scouring the internet for just about every article about Lin in the past couple of days, and reading these three insightful pieces on Lin and the Asian American community, I thought I’d chime in about my own thoughts on Lin and the peculiarity of his story that I believe touches so many Asian Americans and the broader public (it’s not simply because he’s Asian American).

I’d argue that Lin’s story is so engrossing because of a variety of factors, all of which lead to the buzz he’s generating.  If any of the factors below did not exist, I don’t think there would be as much excitement over Lin in the Asian-American community, nor in the broader American audience.

So without further ado, here’s the sentence that I believe encapsulates all the contributing factors to Linsanity (and particularly how it relates to Asian Americans).  I will dissect this sentence below to extrapolate on Lin’s significance.

Jeremy Lin is the starting point guard for the New York Knicks and is averaging 25.3 points and 8.3 assists in the last three games (all wins).

1) Jeremy Lin Jeremy’s an Asian American, and we just haven’t seen many professional Asian-American athletes in the big three U.S. sports of football, basketball, and baseball.  We’ve seen people of mixed race (a la Hines Ward or Patrick Chung) do quite well, but no one like Lin who was born to immigrant parents in the United States like so many others in this country.

Of all three major sports, basketball in particular places a higher premium on raw athletic talent, and I think it’s fair to say that one big reason that Asian-Americans haven’t played in the NBA is because in general, we don’t have the raw athleticism and size as other races.

As a result, athletics, and basketball in particular, is an area in which Asian Americans (and likely any other non-African American race) have felt stereotyped against.  I know this has been true in my own experience.

My brother-in-law David Park (former Harvard player himself) puts it this way:

The stereotyping or snaps to summary judgments occur for all non-African American players. The prototypical ultra-athletic guard is almost exclusively African-American (or from African descent). The game is designed to favor this kind of athleticism with bigger courts, rules against team defense, and even the hand-checking rules. If you’re a team that has to play the odds, you go with the athletes that have potential and try to develop their game. It’s so much upside driven.

Jeremy has a chance to carve out a solid role-playing guard spot that could even be a starting role with significant minutes for the right team. His decision making will keep getting better, and he hasn’t peaked in his strength or athleticism. Teams with players like Melo and Chandler and Stoudemire (not guard-driven) should love to play with a guy like Lin, who will defend, get them the ball in good spots (esp in transition), and hit open jumpers at a decent rate (which he should improve as well over time).

I’m sure Marshall could tell tons of stories, but I always felt discriminated against when I was playing hoops, often by my own teammates. I chose to take it as people being people, and not take it personally. It’s just human nature to stereotype and Asians are absolutely some of the guiltiest in this regard. Jeremy is a pioneer and will have to fight tougher battles than the guys to follow, but there will be guys that follow, esp. from Asia., at some point. For Asian Americans honestly I think it will be harder because the risk/reward is so incredibly high for pursuing professional sports with the kind of commitment you need to be successful.

Jeremy is an outlier in the Asian American community because he has a unique combination of God-given athleticism and talent that eludes most Asian Americans, but he also has the drive to maximize those talents.  The drive alone is inspirational, especially if there are kids after him who also happen to have the size and talent (hopefully our own son David will).  Haha…

Personally, I appreciate that he’s a Christian as well (and Lin mentions his Christian identity as first and foremost in his life), and for folks who are both Christian and Asian-American (a significant group at many college campuses), these are both ways we can relate to Lin.  You can see my previous post from 2010 for more about this.

For the broader public, I think they can appreciate the underdog story of Lin, not being offered a Division 1 scholarship, being undrafted, being cut twice earlier this year.  At every level of basketball he has proven that he belongs – the same is now true for the NBA – he just never really had a chance at significant minutes in the NBA, and it took a coach with his back against the wall to finally give him some minutes.

And as has been customary in Jeremy’s career, he’s proving that he belongs in a league that has never seen anyone like him.

2) …starting point guard… this story would be different if Lin was a big man like Yao, or if he was anything but a point guard.  Let me explain.

In general, the point guard is the quarterback of a basketball team (unless you run the triangle or you have a capable playmaker like Lebron or Allen Iverson).  In other words, the point guard often leads the team, almost as an extension of the coach himself.

In D’Antoni’s offense in particular, the point guard is crucial for its success, a point which many Knick fans have bemoaned seeing the point guard play this year.

As a point guard in D’Antonti’s sytem, one needs to be the alpha dog.  The point guard makes the engine go, and if the right person isn’t in that spot, everything else suffers (again, see the Knicks before February for proof of this).

Jeremy has not simply been a back-up warming the seat for the next guy.  He’s been the guy.

And Jeremy’s not some specialist like Steve Novak who gets 19 points/game but gets little love, or a big man who depends on someone else to feed him the ball.  For Novak and guys like Jared Jeffries, their production comes from someone else’s playmaking.

Jeremy has been the lead guard for the Knicks these past three games.  And he’s taken the reins and been fearless in his role.

There are many Asian American stereotypes of Asian men being paper tigers, as well as the broader feelings of Asian Americans as having a bamboo ceiling, as if Asian Americans are only helpful in support roles but not in lead roles.  As an Asian American, I can attest to this perception, whether real or not, being felt in various places I’ve been.

But here’s Jeremy Lin playing a lead role on his team, and his style of play actually breaks the norms of what Asian-Americans are expected to be/do.

Jeremy’s not just spotting up for open jumpers or playing some side role.  He’s forcing and initiating the action, and as much as people want to talk about the intelligence of his game, he’s actually got a bit of “bad-ass” to his game that basically says I’m going to take it to the cup every time I can.

In other words, it’s not just the fact that Jeremy is having success that gets the Asian American community excited, it’s the way he plays the game.  He’s fearless as a player and leader, and quite frankly, a “bad-ass” in the way he plays.

This is not to say that alpha-dog mentalities are the only ways that Asian-Americans can/should act or behave – it’s just to say that there are few examples that buck the stereotype of passive, support-type, personalities amongst Asian-Americans.

With Jeremy Lin, the stereotypes of paper tigers and bamboo ceilings get challenged with each fearless foray to the hoop.

Sidenote: Shout out to my boy Marshall Cho, coach another bad-ass guard who along with my bro-in-law David are two of the best Asian-American ballers I know.  I loved playing with Marshall because his game was a lot like Lin’s!

3) …for the New York Knicks I may be wrong on this one, but this story is even more buzzworthy because it’s happening in New York, the largest city in the United States and possibly the most influential city in the world.  Jeremy is playing at Madison Square Garden, which is often referred to as basketball mecca.

I texted someone that if Jeremy wins the crowd, he’ll win the battle against every odd against him (a la the movie the Gladiator), and boy, did he win the crowd.

There’s nothing as electric as having the Garden behind you, and now that the New York media is on top of this thing, it’s created a phenomenon.

Could this have happened if he played in Houston?  Golden State?  I don’t know.  I don’t think it’d be quite as significant.

In the words of Frank Sinatra, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”

Jeremy is proving on the biggest basketball stage that he can be a lead guard amongst the best basketball players in the world.

4) …averaging 25.3 points and 8.3 assists in the last three games (all wins)… These are ridiculous numbers.  These are Lebron-esque, Derrick Rose-esque numbers.  Look at where Lin ranks on the Player Efficiency Rating – 2nd in the entire NBA, above guys like Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade!

Now, you might call this a fluke, but Lin was actually leading the Knicks in PER before he was getting significant minutes.  Sure, it may have been garbage time, but somehow, he elevates the team when he’s in the game, and now he’s done it in starter minutes.

Some people are saying, “well, Knicks fans were up on Iman Shumpert earlier this year, or Toney Douglas last year”, and while that’s true, none of these guys put up these numbers.

The only other players who put up these kind of numbers are named Lebron, Rose and Paul.

I’m not saying that Lin can sustain these numbers, but the numbers show that statistics are backing the hype, at least right now.

If Lin had put up these numbers and lost, there wouldn’t be as much hype.

If Lin had put up half these numbers and won, there wouldn’t be as much hype.

But Lin has played exceedingly well as the lead contributor to the team’s winning and renaissance.

Everyone is expecting something to drop off – either the wins and/or the numbers – but they haven’t.

It’s preposterous to posture that the Knicks will win every game and that Lin will continue to play this well statistically (especially with Stat and Melo coming back) but the numbers and the wins support the hype right now.

And that’s why this city is going bonkers with Linsanity.

And as a Christian Asian-American sports enthusiast, I’m going bonkers too.

Reasons Why I’m a Huge Jeremy Lin Fan

Jeremy Lin is my favorite basketball player.

There are so many things to like about this guy, and I’ll outline why I’m such a big fan in this post.

Jeremy Lin's game is like a slasher/playmaker.

Either way, it’s been fun following his career up until now, and I’ve been thrilled to pieces over his signing with the Golden State Warriors.  Granted, he still has to perform well, but even making it this far is quite an accomplishment.  I have little doubt that he’ll do everything he can to take his game to another level.

I remember first hearing about him after Harvard beat BC, who had just beaten the #1 ranked UNC Tarheels.  After that, I googled him and found out that Lin was the California State Player of the Year and State Champion in Division II basketball in California.  I won’t go into why this is such an impressive accomplishment as a high school player, but this is a very BIG deal considering the talent that comes out of California from the prep ranks.

Shortly after the BC game, I remember having a conversation with David Park, my brother in law and former Harvard player himself, about the case for Jeremy playing in the NBA.  Fun times.

After that, I tried to catch as many games as I could, and thanks to this guy – poor man’s commish – I was able to follow Jeremy’s path to the NBA quite closely.  Poor Man’s Commish did an amazing job of making the case for Jeremy as an NBA player, and I’m so grateful for all of his efforts.

I watched as many games as I could (Harvard games are hard to find), saw him play live at Columbia (and even met his mom), watched the entire NBA draft just to see if Jeremy would get drafted, then watched every single one of Jeremy’s summer league games on TV.

I’m so proud of the guy.

Anyhow, here’s why I like the guy so much (besides the obvious fact that he’s Asian American).

1)  He’s a committed Christian – Check out this interview and this one.  Jeremy wants to be a pastor in an urban community one day.  Now, this alone is something that gets me excited, but I think there’s something about his game, his effort, and his accomplishments that seem to reflect so much of what we believe as Christians.  I’ll expound on this later.

2)  He’s been an underdog most of the time – To some degree, it’s hard to argue that a Harvard grad has been an underdog, but when you consider Harvard basketball vs the rest of the NCAA, it’s a true underdog story (even if he went to Princeton, more folks may have seen him as a more legit prospect).

Consider:

Jeremy has constantly proved detractors wrong.

Jeremy was not offered a Division 1 scholarship out of high school, even though he was the State Player of the Year.  That’s crazy.  I don’t think that’s ever happened before (I’ll leave the research to poor man’s commish).  Some suggest it’s because he’s Asian-American… it’d be hard to argue otherwise, considering he played in arguably the best state when it comes to prep basketball.  Btw, his team (Palo Alto) beat Mater Dei, a perennial powerhouse in Southern California.

– Jeremy played for Harvard, and he helped turn them into a winner. Again, Harvard has never been known for its basketball program, and yet they were on the cusp of the NCAA tournament this year.  He played well against bigger named schools (he even dropped 30 points on UCONN and Jim Calhoun said he could play with anybody), but…

Jeremy went undrafted – Even though Jeremy put up some record breaking numbers at Harvard and led them to winning seasons, he went undrafted because people didn’t think he could play at the NBA level.  Most folks counted him out because of his perceived lack of athleticism.

– Even on the summer league team, Jeremy had to claw for minutes – The Mavs had two former first round picks playing ahead of him at guard (Beaubois and Jones), and while they’re great players, Jeremy still had to show his game in limited minutes.  Beaubois battled some injuries, which allowed Jeremy to get more minutes than normal against John Wall.

I love that Jeremy has persevered so much, even despite all the setbacks and disappointments.  I haven’t even mentioned the racial slurs and all the stereotypical stuff.

And yet, Jeremy hasn’t backed down, even against the #1 pick in the draft.  Just watch these highlights and watch Jeremy’s fearlessness.  The kid doesn’t back down from anyone.

Now, it’s a bit ridiculous to say that Lin is better than Wall or that he’s even with Wall in terms of production.  But, I think it’s fair to say that Jeremy is just as strong a competitor as Wall.

I think this says something about Jeremy’s faith, a fighting spirit that is confident yet humble, working hard to beat the odds.

3)  Jeremy’s type of game beats so many stereotypes – First, one would expect a guy from Harvard to have a specialist game of some sort, a la Chris Dudley, rebounding machine from Yale.

Moreover, one would expect an Asian American to be a dead-eye shooter of some sort, making up for a lack of athleticism or size.

But Jeremy’s a slasher/playmaker. He plays great D, has an unorthodox shot, and is fearless going to the rim.

And he plays so hard – his motor is constantly going.

I love it.   

4)  He loves basketball and has excelled in it – This point relates more to what I think about him being a Christian athlete.  Too many times Christians believe that to excel at anything outside of Bible Study, prayer, etc is to be a less devoted follower.  And yet, here’s someone who identifies first with Christ, and still has the guts to work hard and excel in a game he loves.

Christians often pit the two as mutually exclusive – excellence in faith and excellence in work.  But Jeremy is a model that it’s okay, and even ideal, to be excellent at both, and that by doing so, excellent work is a spiritual enterprise.

5) He went to Harvard – This story would be different if Jeremy went to UNC or UCLA.  That’s the typical route to the NBA, and it would allow people to validate his athletic prowess alone.

But for Asian Americans, Jeremy would be a weird anomaly, someone who was a freak athlete and that’s it.

In a weird way, Jeremy going to Harvard allows more Asian Americans to relate to him because he didn’t go on a basketball scholarship – he just went to the best school where he was accepted as a student and where he thought he could play ball.

Now, it’s crazy that Jeremy went to Harvard of all places, the second best school in the country (to Berkeley), but the fact that Jeremy enrolled in a school and went about pursuing a dream (instead of having it handed to him) is really remarkable.

I think Jeremy’s typical as an AA who goes to college but really would prefer to do something else with his life rather than econ, law, or medicine.

Most AAs know other AAs similar to what I described – going to the best college I can, but secretly wanting to do something else with my life.

The difference with Jeremy is that he’s doing that “something else” now.

And so we all celebrate as if Jeremy was one of us.

Because he is…

… but with the faith, courage, and determination to pursue “something else”.

**being 6’4″ 200 lbs certainly helps too!