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Starting a new job can be stressful. On one hand, it's exciting to begin a new chapter in your life, get a fresh start in a different environment and find out about the cool perks of your new workplace. (Free Diet Dr. Peppers in the break-room fridge? Don't mind if I do!) On the other, though, you've got to adjust to a whole new way of doing things: getting acclimated to a different organizational culture, finding the fastest means of egress from your desk to the parking lot and, of course, getting to know all your new co-workers.
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Such run-of-the-mill workplace concerns wouldn't seem to fall within the purview of an NBA player's employment experience. But then, Jeremy Lin's job journey hasn't often followed the expected path, now, has it?
After joining the Charlotte Hornets back in July on a two-year, $4.4 million contract, the 27-year-old point guard spent the summer working out on his own, traveling and even providing commentary during a video-game tournament. With training camp set to open later this month, though, Lin's looking to get settled in Charlotte ahead of the coming season ... but first, apparently, he'll have to get acquainted with the security team at Time Warner Cable Arena:
A Hornets spokesperson had no comment on the matter, according to The Associated Press.
Lest you think Lin's "everywhere I go" hashtag is mere hyperbole, let's remember that there's a well-documented history of the Asian-American guard getting turned away at the gym, dating back to his high-school days in Palo Alto, Calif. From a 2010 piece by Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle:
His high school coach, Peter Diepenbrock, elaborated on the theme a bit. He pointed out that even people who don't mean any harm assume that Lin, whose parents came to the United States from Taiwan, doesn't have game. At least, not the same game as Kobe Bryant.
The first time Lin went to a Pro-Am game at Kezar Pavilion in Golden Gate Park, his coach said, someone there informed him: "Sorry, sir, there's no volleyball here tonight. It's basketball."
That specific expression of disbelief continued after Lin's long and winding road to the pros — from Palo Alto to Harvard to the Golden State Warriors to the D-League to the Chinese Basketball Association and back to the States — landed him in Manhattan as part of the New York Knicks, where he'd go on to become an international sensation during the phenomenal February 2012 run that made "Linsanity" one of the basketball world's signature watchwords.
Lin relayed a similar story about getting momentarily denied entrance to Madison Square Garden early in his tenure with the Knicks — read: pre-Linsanity — in the introduction to the 2013 documentary "Linsanity," as relayed by Jeff Yang of the Wall Street Journal:
“When I got to Madison Square Garden, they stopped me at the player’s entrance,” Lin says in voiceover. “They said, ‘Where do you think you’re going? Are you a trainer?’ And then another security guard came over and said, ‘Hey…I think he plays on the team!’”
You'd suspect that Lin didn't face that sort of stoppage at MSG after he broke through with six straight 20-point games, including that massive 38-point explosion against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers on the court at the World's Most Famous Arena and the Valentine's Day game-winner over future Knick Jose Calderon in Toronto, and became not only one of the most famous athletes in the country, but, however briefly, one of the most influential people in the world.
Three long years later, though — after a coaching change and a knee injury quietly ended his breakout campaign in New York, after the Knicks declined to match the offer sheet Lin signed with the Houston Rockets in restricted free agency, after largely disappointing stints in Houston and with the Los Angeles Lakers that saw him fail to catch fire before moving to the bench behind Patrick Beverley, Ronnie Price and Jordan Clarkson — Lin finds himself in kind of an interesting place. He's still one of the most famous athletes in the world, but his star's magnitude has dimmed enough to where — at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, as an unfamiliar (and, yes, differently colored) face in the building — you can kind of understand why this might happen.
Three and a half years ago, this would've seemed normal; three years ago, it would've seemed unthinkable. Now, it's somewhere in between, an object lesson in the strange space Lin occupies in the NBA landscape. It's not quite the same as when Lin caught a DNP-CD from head coach Byron Scott during a January game against the San Antonio Spurs — his first healthy scratch since before Linsanity — but it also doesn't seem entirely different from what Lin told ESPN the Magazine's Pablo S. Torre was "the low point, for sure" of his struggles in L.A:
"It just felt like I went full circle," he says. "The last time I got a straight-up DNP was that first month I got signed three years ago. I wasn't playing. And then all of a sudden I'm a starter, and then a bunch of things happen" -- yes, this is him yada-yada-yada-ing over Linsanity -- "and three years down the road, it's like I'm back. At square one." He takes a deep breath. "Where I was before."
As he prepares for the new season with his third team in three years, and the fourth of his six-year NBA career, Lin will aim to leave behind that familiar territory, whether playing behind starter Kemba Walker as the Hornets' sixth man or alongside him in two-point-guard lineups designed to energize a Charlotte offense that ranked a dismal 28th among 30 NBA teams in points scored per possession last season. If he once again struggles to find his footing, carve out a role and make consistent contributions that help the Hornets rebound from a disappointing 33-49 season, though, Lin could soon find that he doesn't need to go undercover to avoid getting recognized. Remarkable as it sounds, It might just happen on its own.
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