Is Jeremy Lin Worthy of Making the 2014 NBA All-Star Game? Breaking Down Stats, Video, Social Media Reaction
Jeremy Lin is one of the few players in the NBA whose name can generate such extreme reactions from fans around the world.
Much like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, Lin--though not as decorated as the other two--has amassed a rabid and loyal fanbase that has gotten behind the likeable Palo Alto, Calif., point guard of Taiwanese decent, while also attracting his share of rather critical detractors that have been less than impressed with him despite his rise to fame following the "Linsanity" craze in New York in February 2012.
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Want further proof? Look no further than the NBA All-Star Game balloting, which officially began last week. On the NBA's official Facebook page, where fans were encouraged to vote for their favorite NBA star to play in the midseason hoops gala, NBA fan Sophia Wang innocently nominated her favorite player: "Jeremy Lin #NBABallot He is the best." (That comment drew 42 likes, for what it's worth.)
The results were, to say the least, interesting, as fans and haters of Lin alike chimed on with their verdicts on Wang's nomination:
Hanamichi Rodman wrote, "Never."
Ojwang George Swagnificent: "Lin is not all star."
Jane Lin typed, "Lin is all star forever."
AJ Bermejo had a simple, but effective comment: "lols"
One fan wrote, "Please show some respect to other people's opinions or you can ask the NBA to change their rules."
Marco Moroni chimed in with, "I'm sorry but Lin is never been the best and he will never be."
Ryu-Ken Alexter Ace added, "Jeremy Lin is good .. But its not enough to be in an All Star Team.."
Wang Sandy defended Lin, stating, "Mind you own business! People voted who they want to see in all-star game."
Mandy Li also came to bat for Lin: "Lin is all star forever. He is the best."
Ming-ming Yang added, "I want to see Jeremy Lin , play in the All-Star game bc he has serious skills! #NBABallot"
Danny Sanchez had only one thing to say: "ASIANS."
Andrea Tosi added, "Jeremy Lin because you're asian."
To which Darren Lee replied, "Andrea stfu", and another wrote "Racist! Go away!"
Well, there you have it. You either love him or you hate him, and whatever side of the equation you find yourself on regarding the "Is Jeremy Lin All-Star material?" debate, and you'll likely find some venomous opponents on either side. This argument was even more controversial last season when Lin was in the midst of a rather unstable season with the Houston Rockets-who he signed with that summer after splitting from the New York Knicks-yet finished a very close second to eventual NBA All-Star Game MVP Chris Paul in the starting lineup fan voting. At that point, aside from a few bright spots in December, March and April, the frank fact of the matter was that Lin wasn't anywhere close to playing at an All-Star caliber level.
However, things have changed over the offseason, and after some late summer/early fall work that Lin did on his shooting and ball handling, the fan favorite point guard's stock has risen as a very dependable sixth man off the bench for the surging Rockets, who are 21-12 and closely chasing the San Antonio Spurs at only four games back in the Southwest Division standings.
So, where does Lin stand in terms of becoming an NBA All-Star? Is he worthy of it or not? Let's take a look at the numbers and intangibles:
Hot Lin Putting out Fires From Bench
The arrival of Dwight Howard and the continued excellence of All-Star James Harden have a lot to do with that, as does the Rockets' fast and furious offense (fourth in the NBA in team points, 105.7 per game). However, Lin, who is averaging a strong 14.1 points and 4.1 assists for the Rockets this season despite injuries that cost him a few games, has also become a strong factor in Houston's winning formula, providing stability off the bench and quick offense when needed. Even other NBA coaches have started to take notice, as evidenced by comments from New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams heading into Sunday's 107-98 Rockets win against the Pelicans.
"Everybody talks about Harden and Howard, rightfully so," Williams told the Houston Chronicle. "Those guys are all stars and will probably get to the hall of fame. But Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons are the ones that bother me because people don't respect those guys enough."
With Lin, Williams added, "you look at his production, how he attacks the basket, how he shoots. he is a tough player. They have a number of guys you have to pay attention to."
However, when one of those guys goes down, you have to fill the gap. And with James Harden and starting point guard Patrick Beverley dealing with injuries, Lin has been stepping up admirably, putting up double digits in four of his last five games. He was particularly impressive during the Rockets' biggest win of the season last week, when they bested the Spurs, last year's NBA Finalists and division rivals, 111-98 on Christmas Day, during which Lin produced 13 points and a scintillating eight assists in 34 minutes, outplaying All-Star Tony Parker and company.
Adding a steady and dangerous scorer to a lineup that includes Howard, Harden, and the deadly Chandler Parsons, Lin has added fire to the ice that is Beverley's defense, providing the Rockets with a lethal 1-2 punch in the backcourt.
More Tools in His Belt
Williams has several points. Lin has always been a natural driver, preferring to slash to the basket and slice through defenses. Because of that, Lin's offensive game has picked up another notch thanks to his dedication to improving his shooting. At the moment, Lin is shooting 47.0 percent from the field, and was at one point shooting over 50 percent before he was sidelined with back and knee injuries.
Want further proof? Ask the Philadelphia 76ers, against whom Lin nailed nine three's in a 34-point night on Nov. 13:
Shooting .387 for the month so far, Lin's not shooting as hot as he was last December, when he was a scorching 48.9 percent from the field, but his dedication to improving his shot has done wonders for his confidence, and his numbers. (It should be noted that Lin's only played seven games this month thanks to injuries.) What happens when you take a natural drive-to-the-basket player that gets his teammates involved on offense, and give him an improved, deadlier shot? You get a big headache for teams defensively, and one more reason to fear the surging Rockets.
Picking it Up On Defense
One of the biggests knocks on Lin since his rise to NBA fame has been his defense. He can't guard, they said. He's not a stopper, they jeered.
Beverley is still the better of the two on defense, but since Lin returned six games ago, he's started to show flashes of brilliance on the other end of the floor. Lin faced a stiff challenge against Parker last week, but Lin wound up hounding the All-Star point guard all night, forcing the normally steady Parker into a 3-for-11 night.
The following night, Lin ended up locking down on the very good, extremely dangerous Mike Conley, forcing the Memphis Grizzlies starting point guard into a 4-for-14 night while Lin shined for 18 points and 2 steals in a 100-92 Rockets win.
And keep this in mind: while starting last season, Lin was for much of the year in the NBA's top five in steals, finishing with 1.6 picks for the year. Do his most recent showings mean Lin has become a defensive ace? No, but if anything, those games are proof that Lin can rise to the occasion on defense if asked to, something which is badly needed in Houston's case, the Rockets giving up 102.3 points per game, among the ten worst totals in the game.
Despite being hampered with some ill-timed injuries and competition in the backcourt from Beverley and Aaron Brooks, the 25-year-old Lin has shown signs of growth and promise as his game continues to evolve. Honestly, if he hadn't missed 11 games in late November and December, his stats might be even higher. But overall, he's stepped up when the Rockets have asked him to do more, he's made efforts to improve in critical aspects of his game, and while he still has a few issues with turnovers (coughing up the ball 2.9 times each game), Lin has become one of the best sixth men in the league, adding another deadly weapon to Houston's game in their quest to dethrone the Spurs and go to deep levels in the playoffs not seen since the legendary Hakeem Olajuwon helped put two NBA title banners in the rafters for the Rockets.
If Lin can keep this up heading into next month, even if he doesn't win the starting lineup vote--although there is a very good chance he might, judging from last year's results--suddenly the idea of coaches picking Lin as a reserve for the February gala game doesn't seem too far fetched. Last year, Lin's popularity alone got him into conversation for NBA All-Star consideration. This time around, it might be skill, steady improvement and stable stats that finally earn Lin a ticket to the dance.