Sitting courtside last season when "Lin-sanity" hit Indy for the Pacers vs. Knicks St. Patty's Day showdown at the Banker's Life Fieldhouse was definitely an "experience".
I've covered and seen quite a few Pacers games since 2004. I was there when thousands of teary eyes bid Reggie Miller goodbye, while former Pacers coach, and then Pistons coach Larry Brown emptied his bench to give him a standing ovation; witnessed and felt the agitation and frustration in the crowd when the Pistons first visited the Fieldhouse after "The Malice at the Palace" during Christmas Day and Ben Wallace receiving the "Hoosier Enemy No.1" treatment; I even saw Ron Artest's first return to Indianapolis donning a #93 Sacramento Kings jersey and still remember how fans cheered jubilantly when a ball hit his foot after a fan threw a wayward ball back on the court. I've been around quite a few significant and special games, and "Lin-sanity" in Indy is definitely among them.
I can still remember asking myself whether I've seen so many Asian people congregate at the Fieldhouse or at a basketball game in Indy in general. Not even Yao Ming brought out that kind of fan support during his hay. And then my next question was how long "Lin-sanity", as with other overnight sensations, can sustain that kind of hysteria through his performance on the basketball court.
We all know now that Lin's mortality prevented him from helping the Knicks get past the 1st round of the Playoffs as he helplessly sat on the bench with a knee injury chatting it up with forward Amare Stoudemire who was dealing with a self-inflicted injury of his own. And if Lin is to continue his Asian-American Cinderella Story, it will be in a new uniform and without cameos of handshakes and chest bumps with Knicks BFF Landry Fields.
It would definitely be in the league's best interest if Lin's career continues to skyrocket in Space City as it continues its globalization efforts and expand in the Asian market. Lin's #17 Knicks jersey was the #2 most sought out jersey last season over names like Kobe and LeBron, with only Bulls point guard and 2011 MVP Derrick Rose selling more. The Rockets, a franchise that knows a thing or two about the Asian market, immediately offered Lin a contract he could not resist ($25 mill over 3 years) at the beginning of free agency signing and managed to snag him away from the Knicks. Whether it was basketball or a business move - or both - is still a subject of debate among fans and forumheads.
Can Lin continue his run in Houston?
One can assume the hoopla will never be anywhere near it was without the New York media, and without bona fide All-Stars like Carmelo, Amare and Tyson Chandler, the young Rockets, composed mostly of 2nd and 3rd year players at the moment, will be fortunate to win 30 games in the much-improved Western Conference. Ironically, Lin will have a familiar face in Toney Douglas to share point guard duties. Douglas, the guy Lin supplanted as the Knicks' starting point guard during his torrid scoring run last February, was acquired by the Rockets as part of a trade that sent center Marcus Camby back to the Knicks.
As a player, Lin has proven that he is a capable starter. He can explode to the basket, distribute the ball and run an offense, has a consistent outside jumper, a proven clutch player, has great instincts and a willing defender. He was able to sustain, and often times even elevate his performance amidst an incredible amount of pressure. He found a way to be effective and succeed despite an unpredictable roster that went through several changes due to injuries, and was able to adjust his role on the fly when the team fired head coach Mike D’Antoni and replaced him with Mike Woodson. His decision-making improved through the course of the season, and only figure to continue doing so this year with more experience and a more stable situation behind him.
The question Lin will have to answer is his durability. He broke down toward the end of the season and was unable to suit up for the playoffs as opposing teams paid more attention to him on defense and played him more physical. And now that the scouting reports are out on Lin, he won’t catch too many good teams by surprise. The lack of offensive weapons at his disposal in Houston will only contribute to the challenge.
Whether fair or not, the shadow “Lin-sanity” has cast on Lin will constantly follow him. Chances are, he will fail to live up to the ridiculous expectations people have put on him whether he continues to have a decent career, which he is more than capable of doing, or fade for any of the reasons listed above. But does it really matter? It is a league predicated on winning after all. Just think of LeBron James last season after falling to the Mavs compared to this year after winning his first NBA Championship. If Lin continues to win, “Super Lin-tendo” will continue to live like Mario chomping on green “1-up” mushrooms, and unimaginitive writers murdering Lin puns (guilty as charged). Unfortunately for Lin and his fans, the Rockets aren’t set up for “Lin-ning” this year.
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