Jeremy Lin horses around during All-Star Saturday's Skills Challenge (Getty Images)
When Jeremy Lin’s name was added to the 2013 NBA All-Star game ballot at the outset of the season, it was assumed right away that his presence in the starting lineup was a given. Fans vote for starters, and not only was Lin the league’s New Big Thang last fall, but the song of Taiwanese immigrants has a massive following in China, and it was expected that this particular fan base would be enough to push Lin over the edge and into the lineup.
Lin fell short, though, ranking third amongst guards in the West in total votes. And because he’s having a solid-if-un-All-Star’y season, the coaches did not vote the Rocket guard in amongst the reserves.
Credit Lin for giving the miss one big exhale, and copping to the fact that he was happy he wasn’t given what would have been an undeserved nod. From CSNHouston:
“I’m kind of thankful I didn’t get voted because when … I want to make sure I’m fully, fully deserving of it, when I play,” Lin said after the team’s evening practice on Monday. “And I didn’t feel like that was the case this year.”
Lin received 883,809 All-Star votes this season. He received the third-highest votes of any guard in the Western Conference. Kobe Bryant was first, followed by Chris Paul, about 45,000 votes ahead of Lin. Had Lin been voted in, Paul, the game’s MVP, wouldn’t have even been a starter in the game. He likely would have made the team as a reserve, though.
Because Jeremy wasn’t voted in the starting lineup this season, we can safely assume that the league doesn’t have to wonder yearly if his overseas fan base will have the numbers to hand him a starting gig in the future. A potentially undeserved one.
This was the year for Lin to make it. He played just about All-Star ball for the Knicks last season, the hype machine (as well it should, because Lin is fun to watch) is still going strong behind the 24-year old guard, and last Sunday’s All-Star game took place in Lin’s adopted hometown of Houston. On top of all that, Rocket players have for years gotten a bump in All-Star voting due to fans left over from Yao Ming’s time in the city of Houston. Witness Omer Asik’s ranking amongst potential starting big men, or recent vote counts for Steve Francis and Kevin Martin that seemed a little, um, disproportionate.
If any season would have been the one to place Lin ahead of Chris Paul, it would have been 2012-13, with the bloom still on the rose and worldwide online voting counts still leading the way. In the future, Lin will have to make the team on his own merit – something he seems well suited for, even in an up and down first full season as a starter.
Remember, the jump from low-level competition in Harvard to D-League work barely playing to expected stardom is a massive leap. Each of the steps along the way usually requires a good chunk of the season to work through, and in just 12 months Lin has gone from a 12th man whose only big minute experience came against Ivy League or minor league competition to someone expected to play 35 minutes a night for a playoff team. Oh, and let’s toss a torn knee ligament in there. And the addition of an All-Star backcourt mate in James Harden after training camp and the exhibition season, with no real time to gel before the games started counting.
This is a long way of pointing out that Jeremy Lin has been through quite a bit over the last year, and for him to come out of it playing relatively well – 12.6 points and 6.2 assists in nearly 33 minutes a game, with an average Player Efficiency Rating of 14.8 – is just fine for now.
Add in an improved three-point shot, fewer turnovers, and a full year under his belt working with Harden and you have the potential to earn an All-Star nod on merit, and not popularity. It’s still so early in this guy’s career, despite all the initial headlines, and Lin doesn’t even turn 24 until late in the summer.
It’s good that we’re not faced with the uneasiness that comes from Lin being voted into a slot he doesn’t deserve. It’s better that Lin has the right approach to it, and warming to note that he still has a chance to make it to the NBA’s showcase exhibition by way of his improving play.
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