In wake of Linsanity, Lin in ‘better place’
MIAMI — When Beatlemania hit New York in 1964, four lads from Liverpool relished it. When Linsanity arrived in the city 48 years later, Jeremy Lin was not that willing of a participant.
“Just not being able to go anywhere (was difficult),” the injured New York Knicks guard said in an interview with FOX Sports Florida before his team’s 106-94 loss at Miami on Wednesday that ended their season. “I’m more of a private person so I get like nervous. It’s kind of scary when I go out and people recognize me and stuff… It took some getting used to.”
Unless you’ve been on a trek across Antarctica, you know Lin burst onto the scene out of nowhere and landed on consecutive Sports Illustrated covers in February. But much has settled down since then.
To start with, America’s attention span is not very long these days. And Lin was sidelined March 24 for what turned out to be a season-ending knee injury.
Obviously, Lin hasn’t liked being hurt. But he’s had no problem with Linsanity subsiding.
“It’s settled down,” said Lin, whose Knicks fell 4-1 to the Heat in an East first-round series. “Not as much stuff going on, not getting pulled in as many different directions, and just learning how to say no, and learning how to weed people out and things like that. So I think I’m in a better place definitely. It’s still a little hectic for me every day trying to figure things out.”
Has it gotten to the point Lin at least can walk the streets in New York?
“Maybe,” Lin said. “It depends if I put a hat on.”
Lin, 23, had been hoping to at least add a playoff game to his remarkable season, having expressed optimism last week that his torn left meniscus would heal enough to perhaps get into Wednesday’s Game 5. But he was ruled out Tuesday.
Lin told reporters after Wednesday morning’s shootaround he was at about 85 percent. But he said before the game that perhaps he misspoke.
“I haven’t touched a rim in six weeks, so I really can’t jump right now the way I want to,” said Lin, who averaged 14.6 points and 6.2 assists in 35 games for the Knicks this season but 18.5 points and 7.7 assists in 26 games after he stunningly went from the end of the bench to a pivotal role. “So I don’t even know if it’s 85 percent. I probably shouldn’t have said that. But I can’t really jump or explode the way, even close to how I want to.
“If I could play right now on this, I don’t think I’d be able to defend or go by people or attack the rim… I talked to the doctor (Wednesday), I talked to the owner (James Dolan), and they advised me not play right now.”
Since the season now is over, Lin will have plenty of time to heal. He becomes a restricted free agent July 1, but said he wants to re-sign with the Knicks.
“Yeah, I’d love to. Yeah,” Lin said. “This city and the organization have been great for me. They believed in me, so that’s great.”
Considering his improved play and the marketability of the Asian-American, a rival team might want to put a big offer down on Lin. But the rule for Lin’s free-agent classification doesn’t allow another team to offer more than the mid-level exception of about $5 million, and the Knicks would be able to match any amount.
“I haven’t really looked into the rules yet,” said the Harvard graduate who averaged 2.6 points last season as a Golden State rookie and this season is on a prorated minimum deal of $762,195. “I know it’s complicated. So me and my agent (Roger Montgomery) are going to sit down after the season and figure it all out before July 1.”
Adding to the intrigue, if the Knicks use their full mid-level exception on Lin, they wouldn’t have any money to bring back guard J.R. Smith if he were to opt out of contract and become a free agent. Smith might opt out because he could make more than his $2.5 million option on the open market.
But he couldn’t make more with the Knicks if they use all their money to keep Lin. This despite the fact Smith says he wants to be back.
“Oh, yeah, I love New York,” Smith said about remaining with the Knicks before adding he hasn’t even thought about whether he will opt out.
Lin, though, is the Knicks’ top priority. So it would be very surprising to see him in another uniform next season.
As for what uniform Lin might be wearing this summer, that remains to be seen. Lin said he would like to play for the Select Team, a group of young players who will scrimmage against the U.S. Olympic team and who will remain Team USA candidates for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
“Yeah, I’d be interested,” Lin said. “That would be cool, of course.”
Lin said he hasn’t heard from USA Basketball. While chairman Jerry Colangelo could not be reached Wednesday night, he wouldn’t offer any names Tuesday other than DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Kyrie Irving and DeMar DeRozan being locks for the team and Greg Monroe being a strong candidate.
Because he is of Chinese and Taiwanese descent, Lin could be a candidate to play for one of those national teams. He said both nations have reached out to him before. While China will play in the Olympics, Lin doesn’t know if it’s possible he could join that team in London.
“Probably after the season, we’ll talk,” Lin said regarding Chinese officials. “They’ll come, if they want, they’ll come and talk and I’ll look at everything and make a decision.”
Whichever country Lin might choose, he likely would have to remain with that one for the rest of his playing days. Lin did not want to give any pecking order among possible nations he could represent.
As for his representing the Knicks this season, Linsanity was like nothing the NBA ever has seen.
“Everywhere we went, we had sold-out crowds,” New York center Josh Harrellson said. “A lot of Asian people would come just to watch Jeremy Lin play. That’s probably the craziest thing I’ve ever seen is so many people just coming out to watch one guy.”
Harrellson said the commotion has subsided since Lin got hurt but not as much as some might think.
“It’s getting better (for Lin). He’s up there on the status with like Kobe (Bryant) and all them, where people want to meet him, people want to see him,” Harrellson said. “He’ll never have a normal lifestyle now. But it’s definitely calmed down since when it first started.”
If Lin remains in a popularity category with Bryant, he better keep that hat on when walking the streets of New York.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson