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The Jeremy Lin Signing Has brought Unprecedented Popularity to the Brooklyn Nets but also bought in the Racial Haters

First thoughts on Jeremy Lin

Whatever it’s called, we will take it. It’s the return of LinSanity to New York. Call it Brook-LinSanity or Brooklyn-Sanity or BrookLinSanity.  We’ll wait for the trademark … and you know it will be trademarked.

Putting aside all the other Nets issues this free agency (see below), the signing of Lin changes the team. They have a starting point guard, one who played well last year in Charlotte coming off the bench. But they also have an international phenomenon, the only Chinese-American (Taiwanese-American, if you prefer) in the NBA, the only Ivy Leaguer in the NBA.  He is also fun.  He does not sulk.  He does not complain.  He’s real, someone who a variety of fans can relate to. (including that small subset with a degree in economics from Harvard and an 800 on their Math SATs. That’s not us.) And he’s charismatic.

His popularity is staggering.  NetsDaily’s Twitter followers have jumped by nearly 1,000 in the last three days!  We’ve had 100,000+ page views every day since he was signed.  We know we do a comprehensive job on covering the team and we know the team is in the midst of a critical free agency, but most of the surge IS the result of the Lin signing.  We can’t imagine what it’s been like for the Nets!

We wonder what the Nets will do to introduce him.  A big press conference at Barclays Center?  Or a smaller one at the HSS Training Center, conveniently located in Sunset Park, Brooklyn’s China Town?  Whichever it is, expect a media madhouse.

And what about basketball? You know hoops, the reason they signed him. Lin made it clear this weekend that the big reason for his move other than perhaps his relationship with Kenny Atkiinson, was his desire to start. As he wrote Hornets fans… “I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to continue seeing what I can do as a basketball player.”  He wanted to start.  Last week, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, China (think about that), he talked about the importance of his upcoming free agency, noting that the years between age 27 and 31 are the peak for basketball players.

So what can we expect from Jeremy Lin as starter?  There are reference points, provided by his passionate fans (more on that in the final note).

Over the course of his career, he’s started about half the games he’s played in. In Charlotte last year, he started only 13, but did very well.  He averaged 17.5 points, shot 46 percent both overall and from deep and averaged 4.8 assists. A Lin fan compared his stats to other free agents this summer.

Similarly, Lin fans have been circulating data on how he performs when starting without superstar teammates. Lin has started 33 games in his career when Carmelo Anthony,James Harden, Kemba Walker or Nicolas Batum were hurt.

Most importantly, Lin’s teams went 23-10 in those 33 games, without their stars, a better record than when the stars were in the lineup — and that was true for each team. Second, only eight of those 33 games were during Linsanity with the Knicks. The Linsanity games don’t look much different from the other 25 games, statistically. Lin averaged: 20.4 ppg, 6.4 apg, 3.7 rpg, 48% shooting, 44% 3-point shooting.

Obviously, it’s a small sample and critics can argue that when he started 82 games for theRockets in 2012-13, he was somewhat mediocre, 13.4 points and 6.1 assists while shooting under 45 percent overall and barely over 33 percent from deep. The next season, he started only 33 out of 71 games. The Rockets moved on.

Lin has his problems. He makes fewer pick-and-roll passes than Jarrett Jack. His defense is ordinary and some think he’s more a 1.5 than a 1, meaning he’s a shoot-first point guard or a shooting guard who can pass.

Atkinson, to a large degree, created LinSanity, working with him as a Knicks player development coach and pushing Mike Dantoni to play him.  He believes in Lin.  They have a strong coach-player relationship, one of the strongest in the league between a point guard and a coach, you could argue.

Of course, there is another side to the Lin phenomenon and it’s the ugly one, the racial one.  Going back to 2012, when Jason Whitlock and ESPN had to apologize for racially tinged comments, Lin has been the focus of a lot of discussion on race in sports.  Remember this Saturday Night Live open at the height of LinSanity…

On less light note, this spring, the NBA had to respond to other passionate Lin fans who put together and circulated a video that suggested refs were letting Lin get hammered without calling a flagrant, without even a review.

The video has had nearly two million page views on YouTube alone and a lot more on places like Hong Kong and Taipei and Shanghai.

The subtext was as the New York Times wrote, “With its bruising simplicity, it revived questions about the fairness and consistency of officiating in the N.B.A. and led to conversations about latent racial biases. With its far-flung reach, it reiterated the power of social media in the contemporary sports landscape.”

The fans addressed a letter to Adam Silver, calling for a review. But the NBA rejected the claim (although former refereeing director Ronnie Nunn agreed with the fans.)  Don’t expect this controversy to die. As the fans wrote in a follow-up to the NBA’s response, “We have arrived at different conclusions from yours.” They will continue to monitor what they see as unfairness. (A side note, next time anyone suggests Lin is “soft,” one of the more hateful phrases in sports, send them this video.)

Expect controversy to continue as well. Lin will be back in New York, not Charlotte.  The comments from two (jealous?) point guards, Stephon Marbury and Jarrett Jack, this weekend were likely just the beginning.

But let’s forget that for now. Jeremy Lin will bring excitement to Brooklyn, will bring an international audience to Brooklyn, will bring a presence to Brooklyn.  It will bring LINSANITY!

Source: NetsDaily Off-Season Report No. 12 – NetsDaily