Jeremy Lin’s breakout boosting interest in Asia


Thu, Feb 09, 2012 - Page 19

Jeremy Lin has created a lot of work for his agent and fresh broadcast opportunities for the New York Knicks in Asia since a 28-point performance in his first NBA start on Monday.

“I haven’t slept in three days,” Roger Montgomery said in a telephone interview on Tuesday between calls and e-mails offering congratulations and endorsement opportunities. “It’s hard to find an agent that doesn’t know what to say, but I’m kind of speechless at how all of this is playing out.”

The only player from Harvard University to reach the NBA since Ed Smith made 11 appearances for the Knicks in 1953-1954, Lin is boosting the appeal of the Knicks (10-15) in Asia. The 1.91m, 91kg point guard is the first US-born player of Taiwanese or Chinese descent to join the league.

Lin’s exploits in the past two games led NBA TV in Taiwan, NBA Premium in the Philippines and BesTV Virtual Super Sports Channel in China, where television ratings for the league have surged 39 percent over last season, to decide to air last night’s game at the Washington Wizards.

The 99-92 win over the New Jersey Nets on Saturday, in which Lin came off the bench to contribute a career-high 25 points and seven assists, will also be replayed by NBA partners in Asia.

The performance earned Lin, 23, a start two nights later against the Utah Jazz, in which he bettered his points tally by three and had eight assists, making him the only player since Isiah Thomas in 1981 to reach those numbers in his first career start, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That game, too, will be shown again in Asia because of Lin’s play.

“It’s not like I’m mad at anyone, it was just an opportunity,” Lin told reporters after the Jazz game. “I don’t think anyone, including myself, saw this coming.”

While some Knicks games already air in Taiwan, the league has received interest in adding more if Lin — whose US$788,000 contract will officially be guaranteed for the season as of tomorrow — continues to excel.

It was 4 minutes, 54 seconds into his postgame news conference before Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni was asked about All-Star Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks’ leading scorer who left in the first quarter against Utah with a groin injury. Most questions focused on the new celebrity.

“I didn’t know he could play defense, I didn’t think he could shoot well enough and I didn’t think he could go up and finish,” D’Antoni said of Lin. “I wasn’t sure the first time I saw it, but now he’s had the opportunity and he’s made the best of it.”

Despite leading Palo Alto High School to an upset over nationally ranked Mater Dei in the state championship as a senior, Lin was not a highly touted college prospect.

“The key thing about him, if you want to break it down, is that Jeremy does things when it counts,” his high-school coach Peter Diepenbrock said in a telephone interview. “When the lights are the brightest, that’s when he performs.”

He played four years at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he became the first Ivy League player to record 1,450 points, 450 rebounds, 400 assists and 200 steals.

Still, he went undrafted in 2010 before signing with his hometown Golden State Warriors. Lin played in 29 games last season, averaging 2.6 points and 1.4 assists in 9.8 minutes per game. He was cut on Dec. 9 last year, picked up by the Houston Rockets and then waived again on Dec. 24 because of roster space limitations the day before the lockout-shortened NBA season began. He signed with the Knicks three days later.

“The right place at the right time, at any level, is critical,” said Tommy Amaker, Lin’s coach at Harvard. “But I’m sure some people will look back and say: ‘What were we thinking?’”

Lin had eight turnovers against the Jazz, likely caused by fatigue from having played a career-high 45 minutes, D’Antoni said.

“I’m sure it is,” he said. “I’m riding him like freaking Secretariat.”

The Knicks, who have been without point guard Baron Davis this season because of back and elbow injuries, will benefit from Lin’s stamina, Amaker said in a telephone interview.

“It’s part of his DNA that he can go harder, longer than most people,” he said. “When you take a step back to take a deep breath, he’s still coming hard.”

Videos of Lin’s highlights in the past two games generated interest on social media Web sites.

Michael Zhao, the managing editor for the Asia Society’s Center on US-China Relations in New York, doesn’t follow the NBA closely and had not heard of Lin before a friend posted a video of game highlights on Facebook.

“I immediately clicked on the video and watched the whole thing,” Zhao said in a telephone interview. “His performance and future ones will draw a new audience in not only Hong Kong and Taiwan, but probably the mainland [China], Japan and Korea as well.”

The result is at least one weary believer in Montgomery, Lin’s agent.

“Jeremy just doesn’t look the part,” Montgomery said, eventually finding the words to describe his client’s rise. “It’s part of our world. People underestimate people a lot of times. That’s what makes the story so good.”