Jeremy Lin: From NBA Benchwarmer to New York Knicks Star

February 7, 2012

Photo from New York Knicks website

It's fitting that Hyphen launched a release party for its Survival issue the same Saturday that the New York Knicks annointed a new star point guard who could save their season.

Jeremy Lin, the first American-born NBA player of Taiwanese descent, has become the new toast of the Big Apple, after New Yorkers switched their collective pro sports attention from their Super Bowl-winning Giants to the embattled Knicks.

Lin could be the poster boy for survival in the NBA. Hyphen has kept tabs on the 6'3" 200-pound point guard since he was a collegiate star at Harvard University, which he attended after top choice UCLA didn't show interest in his basketball skills and a recruiter from Cal (my alma mater) shamefully called him by the wrong name.

Get the backstory on Jeremy Lin:

  • Dec. 2009: Jeremy Lin: Basketball Player Extraordinaire, Pioneer
  • Jan. 2010: Jeremy Lin Story Gaining Nationwide Interest
  • Feb. 2010: Jeremy Lin a Finalist for Bob Cousy and John Wooden Awards
  • July 2010: Jeremy Lin on Verge of NBA Contract

    After making his mark in Ivy League basketball, Lin graduated but went undrafted in the NBA. He worked his way through summer leagues (think pro team tryouts) and was signed by the Golden State Warriors (in what many observers saw as a publicity stunt for the Asian American community in the Bay Area), then got cut. He was signed by the Houston Rockets, then got cut. The New York Knicks took a chance on Lin, but relegated him to the NBA equivalent of junior varsity.

    “If somebody wakes up with a cold, he’s playing a lot,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said at the time. “If not, we’ll see.”

    Lin put up such a prolific stat line (a triple-double, for hoops fan) in his one game, the Knicks had no choice but to promote him back to the A-team.

    Even so, Lin's status with the Knicks was up in the air until his breakout game on Saturday against the New Jersey Nets. At the Knicks' home court, known as the Mecca because it's hoops hallowed ground, Lin tallied 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds and produced a flurry of drives to the basket, alley-oop passes for dunks and tenacious defense on All-Star Deron Williams. Two Knicks players had lobbied coach Mike D'Antoni at halftime to give Lin more playing time; after Lin began making plays, the crowd responded with cries of "Jer-e-mee!" All this after Lin had spent the night on a teammate's couch.

    ""Lin had been crashing at his brother’s place when coming home late from road games, as the Knicks
    did after a crushing loss in Boston Friday night. But there was no room
    at the inn -- his brother had ample house guests, Lin said -- so he slept
    on teammate Landry Fields’ couch the night before the best game of his life.

    “I think I may just go move in with him,” Lin said.""

    D'Antoni, facing doubts over his own job performance, rewarded Lin by starting him in Monday's game against the Utah Jazz. With the Knicks missing their two All-Star players and playing with a team cobbled together with second-stringers, Lin delivered with a 28-point, eight assist performance while leading the team to their second consecutive victory.

    Afterward, Lin deflected credit and stayed humble while talking to NBA TV about his journey to the Knicks and about that teammate's couch.

    The Knicks, now with a 10-15 record, have been looking for a point guard all season, trying to pigeonhole various players into the position. Without leading scorers Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, the Knicks are facing an uphill battle in the games ahead. But if the savvy and scrappy Lin has more games like these, he may turn out to be the Knicks' savior.


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    Kevin Lee


    Kevin Lee is slumming it in the anachronistic industry of journalism. Before landing back in California, he had gigs covering politics in Illinois, Wisconsin and Texas. He's currently grappling with the decision of whether or not to buy a car.