Spoelstra: Celebrate Lin for his play

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra makes no secret about the fact that

he’s enjoying the Jeremy Lin story.

An undrafted player from Harvard bounces around and auditions

for a handful of NBA clubs, even spends some time in the NBA

Development League, then finally gets a chance to play with the

Knicks. And on New York’s stage instantly becomes a star who’s

putting up monster numbers every night while seeming to carry one

of the league’s most storied franchises with ease.

”It’s a great story,” Spoelstra said. ”It really is.”

In Spoelstra’s mind, it’s a good enough story to stand on those

merits alone.

Nonetheless, heritage is a massive part of the Linsanity craze.

Lin – the son of Taiwanese parents – is not the NBA’s first

Asian-American player, but surely the first to generate this much

interest. Spoelstra’s mother is from the Philippines, making him

the league’s first Asian-American coach. He and Lin will be on

opposite ends of the court in Miami on Thursday night when the

NBA-leading Heat hosts the Knicks.

”It’s a great rags-to-riches story,” Spoelstra said. ”That’s

the bigger story. And hopefully years from now it’ll be about that,

not about the ethnicity.”

After helping New York reach .500 by beating Atlanta on

Wednesday, Lin is averaging 23.9 points and 9.2 assists in an

11-game stretch since joining the Knicks’ rotation. New York is 9-2

in those games, saving a season that was spiraling out of

control.

Facing the Heat figures to be Lin’s biggest challenge yet this

season. Miami goes into Thursday as the NBA’s hottest team, winning

seven straight games – all by double figures – and tied with

Oklahoma City for the league’s best record at 26-7.

Basketball’s reach has long been global, which is evident every

time Spoelstra speaks with reporters. Whether it’s in the Heat

press room or on the practice floor, his media availabilities

almost always take place with him standing or seated before a drape

bearing with the Heat logo – and one for Tsingtao, a Chinese beer

company that entered into a multiyear agreement with the team a few

months ago.

And Spoelstra’s following in the Philippines – a place he went

more than 30 years without seeing – is massive.

The Heat broadcast department streamed live pregame, halftime

and postgame shows on the team’s website during last season’s

playoffs, getting more clicks from the Philippines than any other

foreign country. He has made trips there in recent summers for

camps and clinics, typically being overwhelmed by the sizes of

crowds coming out for those events.

Still, no one ever coined the term Sposanity.

Linsanity, meanwhile, has fast become a part of the everyday

sports lexicon.

”I think it’s taken away from it, honestly,” Heat forward

LeBron James said, when asked if the attention on Lin’s heritage

overshadows his play. ”But at the end of the day, he’s winning

ball games. That’s ultimately what it comes down to. You average 25

and 9 and lose, it doesn’t mean much. You should realize how good

of a player he is and not get caught up in everything else. He’s a

really good player.”

Spoelstra remembers the first time he heard of Lin, and it

wasn’t when he started turning the Knicks around.

It was July 2010, about a week after James, Dwyane Wade and

Chris Bosh dominated the NBA news cycle by all deciding to play

together in Miami. Lin was with the Dallas Mavericks’ summer league

team in Las Vegas, simply trying to make an NBA roster.

”We were playing in the game after,” Spoelstra said. ”So I

showed up at the gym, and it was the auxiliary gym next door (to

where the Heat summer team was playing). And you could hear all the

noise. We heard John Wall was playing, so when everybody came into

our gym there was a buzz. We all assumed it was John Wall that

dominated that game. And then people were talking about a Lin kid

who dominated the fourth quarter. Nobody knew who he was.

”Everybody in the gym was talking about him.”

And now, that’s still true – just on a much bigger scale.

”The fact that he came from oblivion … it shows his

fortitude, his character, his resiliency,” Spoelstra said.

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