Jeremy Lin brings Rockets to ancestral homeland
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP)
The Rockets will face the Indiana Pacers in an NBA preseason game Sunday in Taipei - a special occasion for the league's first American-born player of Taiwanese descent.
''I kind of see this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,'' Lin told a packed news conference. ''I don't know if I'll ever be able to come back and play a NBA preseason game here where my parents were born and raised.
''Definitely, I am looking forward to it. It's a celebration in some sense.''
The Rockets and Pacers traveled to Taipei from Manila, where Houston beat Indiana 116-96 on Thursday in the first NBA preseason game in the Philippines.
Taiwan is still in the throes of ''Linsanity,'' with Lin T-shirts and related paraphernalia popular on this self-governing island of 23 million people, 100-miles off the China coast.
Rockets coach Kevin McHale said Lin learned last season about the grind of a full NBA season and praised him for the hard work he put in over the summer to improve his game.
''He worked really, really hard,'' McHale said. ''I think he's going to get better and better.''
Home to a professional basketball league of its own, Taiwan fits into the NBA's plans to expand its brand internationally. Retired star Yao Ming of China gave the league a massive lift in the world's largest single market.
The game on Sunday is the second NBA exhibition in Taipei in four years. The Pacers played the Denver Nuggets in October 2009.
''We spent a lot time together off the court,'' new Rockets center Dwight Howard said. ''This trip has really helped us bond. I am very, very excited about our future as a team. I believe that everybody has a confidence that we can win a championship. That's the main thing.''
Pacers center Roy Hibbert said this Indiana team is different from the one that played here four years ago.
''We went from a team that was trying to get to the playoffs to being a contender,'' he said. ''We have just gotten stronger. We went from a 3-point shooting team to a team that plays physical. Our whole identity changed.
''So you are definitely going to see a different Pacers than you saw four or five years ago.''