Jeremy Lin: ‘DNP’ to ‘MVP’ in Seven Days
Seven days ago, Jeremy Lin had no problem walking around New York City. Even if he was donning blue and orange, it’s unlikely that he would be recognized. Lin was a seldom-used point guard and his days with the New York Knicks appeared to be numbered. With Baron Davis, Iman Shumpert, Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby on the roster, why would the Knicks guarantee Lin’s contract?
Then, last Saturday, Lin had his coming out party. He came off the bench and torched Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets for 25 points and 7 assists. Two nights later, Lin was named the starting point guard against the Utah Jazz and contributed 28 points and 8 assists. Against the Washington Wizards, without Carmelo Anthony or Amar’e Stoudemire, Lin still managed to dominate, finishing with 23 points and 10 assists. The Knicks won all three games and Lin solidified himself as a fan-favorite.
Lin has gained nearly 70,000 followers on Twitter in the past week. The Knicks have begun selling “Linsanity” shirts in their team store. Several publishers are attempting to sign the 23-year-old to a book deal. Fathead has released a Lin wall graphic. The Asian-American rapper Jin has released a song about the point guard. Lin has become a star, and he still can’t believe everything that has transpired.
“One week ago, I was just hoping that I’d be able to keep my job for the rest of the year,” Lin told HOOPSWORLD in a phone interview. “I’m just so thankful and grateful for everything.”
“From the outside looking in, everyone is saying, ‘Look what Jeremy has done,’ but people don’t understand that there are so many things that had to happen outside of my control to get to this point,” Lin said. “The timing of everything has been unbelievable and I think it’s a miracle from God. It’s really hard for me to explain. There’s a lot more going on right now besides just me – there are a lot of other people contributing that have made me look good.”
During his first start against Utah, the Knicks won the opening tip and Lin caught the ball. Immediately, he received a standing ovation from the fans in Madison Square Garden. Later that evening, they chanted “M-V-P” whenever Lin touched the ball or went to the free throw line. This is exactly what the Knicks needed after their dreadful start to the season, someone to re-energize the team and fanbase.
“It’s been pretty crazy,” Lin said. “There’s just a lot going on right now and I’m just trying to stay focused. The games are coming up so fast, every two days we have another game. It has been a lot of fun though; I think that’s the most important thing. Basketball is supposed to be fun. Right now, the team is playing the way we’re supposed to play. As a result, we’re getting wins and that’s what matters regardless of who does well.”
Is this level of play sustainable? That’s the biggest question surrounding Lin at the moment.
“The way I look at it, I don’t go into games looking to get a double-double,” Lin said. “I really just try to do my best, play for God’s glory and take what the defense gives me. It may not be a lot on some given nights and I’m really not worried about my stats. I just want to help the team win. I know that sounds really cliché and whatever, but we need to make a playoff push right now. That’s what the whole team is focused on. As a result of buying into that, people have had really nice numbers but that’s not what we’re focused on. I definitely don’t care about numbers, I just want to win.”
Lin is mature beyond his years, which has helped him deal with this circus. He understands, more than anyone, that the NBA is a business. He was waived by the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets prior to joining the Knicks. While he was initially frustrated by his journeyman status, he believes it prepared him for the situation he’s in now.
“I think it changed me as a person,” Lin said. “It made me more mature and developed my faith in God. Going through adversity teaches you things and there have been a lot of tough times in the last year in a half. From getting waived twice to being sent down to the D-League four times, it’s just been very humbling. I do think that the last year and a half prepared me for this, prepared me to be part of the rotation. When I went to the D-League, I got better while playing for Coach [Eric] Musselman and Coach [Jay] Larranaga.”
As you can tell, Lin is very religious. He grew up in a devout Christian family and is very open about his faith. After he finishes his NBA career, Lin wants to become a pastor. His unexpected success and religious values have led to Tim Tebow comparisons. When asked about the comparison, Lin is flattered.
“Honestly, I respect Tim Tebow a lot and I think what he’s done is much bigger than what I’ve done,” Lin said. “The biggest thing that I like about Tim Tebow – and by the way, I’m a huge, huge Tim Tebow fan – is what he does off the field and the number of lives he impacts and influences. His heart is unbelievable and he spends so much time with at-risk youth, children with leukemia, orphans and kids in third-world countries. That’s much more important than anything we can do as athletes on the court or on the field. I think that’s where I want to go next. I want to have that kind of impact because, at the end of the day, that’s changing lives.”
On the court, Lin has drawn comparisons to Steve Nash because of his court vision, decision making and pick-and-roll proficiency. While Lin watched plenty of Nash’s games growing up, he doesn’t feel that his name belongs in the same sentence just yet.
“I would always watch his highlights and watch the Phoenix Suns’ highlights, but I’m very careful not to get into these comparisons,” Lin said. “I mean, look at what he has done! He’s a two-time MVP and a future Hall of Famer. I have a hard time comparing myself to him. I would say that I do try to learn from him, but I have a long way to go.”
Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of Lin’s ascent to stardom is his living situation. He had no idea if the Knicks were going to guarantee his contract so, rather than buying his own place, he was sleeping on his older brother’s couch or crashing at teammate Landry Fields’ house. Now, with his deal guaranteed for the remainder of the season, he’s ready to start sleeping in a bed.
“I’m in the process of finding a place,” Lin said with a laugh, adding that he should probably buy Fields’ couch since it brought him good luck.
Lin is extremely likeable and his story is phenomenal. He has always been overlooked, even dating back to high school when he didn’t receive a single athletic scholarship. He landed at Harvard and experienced success. However, he went undrafted despite dominating a number of pre-draft workouts. On the night of the 2010 NBA Draft, Lin was hoping that the Knicks would pick him in the second round, but they instead went with Andy Rautins and Fields. After an impressive performance in the Las Vegas Summer League, Lin signed a non-guaranteed deal with the Warriors and fought his way onto the roster. Nothing has ever been handed to Lin and the fans in New York love their hard working underdog.
“The reaction has just been very positive and I’m so thankful for them,” Lin said. “I didn’t know how crazy the New York fanbase was until now. I’m just very thankful and I appreciate their support. These fans don’t have to come out and root for us. They could boo us or whatever; we’re having a tough season. The love that they have shown in the last week has just been unreal.”
Lin and the Knicks should only continue to get better in the coming weeks. Carmelo Anthony will return from a groin injury and Amar’e Stoudemire will rejoin the team after mourning the loss of his brother, Hazell, who died in a car crash on Monday. Lin has been sensational in their absence and he can’t wait to start his first game alongside both Anthony and Stoudemire.
“It’s going to be unbelievable,” Lin said. “You have Amar’e, who can shoot and drive. He’s a powerful finisher and an unbelievable pick-and-roll player. You have Melo, who is a top five scorer in the league. Then, you have Tyson Chandler, who you can just throw it up anywhere and he’ll get it. The key for us is getting this offense flowing the way we want it to. We need to be more efficient and I need to get the ball to the guys in the spots that they’re comfortable in and most effective in. I think that’s going to take a little bit of time, but I’m excited. If we can get it to work out, this is an explosive offense.”
On a Knicks roster that features three max players, Lin has emerged as the difference maker while on a minimum contract. In his journey from the end of the bench to the starting lineup, Lin has won over the sports world and become a household name. What will he do next week?