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The NBA didn’t want Jeremy Lin after all; not in the role he wanted anyway.
Almost two months into free agency, the American-born Taiwanese superstar has made a commitment to the Chinese Basketball Association’s Beijing Ducks.
On July 24, Lin told Taipei reporters that he first thought about playing in China approximately five years ago, because of the response he would get when coming to visit fans in the region. He also added that another dream he’d like to accomplish when he did come over to China would be to play with his younger brother, Joseph, who plays for the Fubon Braves in the Super Basketball League, an elite semi-pro men’s league in Taiwan.
While this represents a great opportunity for Lin to connect with Chinese fans who have had to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to watch him play in the NBA, this is also a sobering reality for a player who once commanded the best basketball league in the world’s attention while playing for the New York Knicks and creating mass hysteria with ‘Linsanity.’
After decent stints with the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, and Charlotte Hornets, Lin’s NBA career was derailed by injuries during his time with the Brooklyn Nets, playing just 37 games over two seasons. He signed with the Atlanta Hawks ahead of the 2018-19 season in a veteran role to complement star rookie Trae Young, but had an opportunity of a lifetime to get bought out by the Hawks in February and sign with the Toronto Raptors ahead of their championship-winning run.
He struggled to find his footing over the final couple months of the regular season despite an extended absence for backup point guard Fred VanVleet, before barely seeing the court during the playoffs. Teams must have taken that as a sign that he couldn’t be a decent contributor on the court for the 2019-20 season, as Lin shocked the basketball world by revealing just how difficult it was to cope with not being wanted.
“In English there’s a saying, and it says once you hit rock bottom, the only way is up,” Lin said on Good TV during a speech in Taiwan when reflecting on his 2019 free agency process. “But rock bottom just seems to keep getting more and more rock bottom for me. So, free agency has been tough. Because I feel like in some ways the NBA’s kind of given up on me.”
This was an important revelation from Lin, as the age of player power in the NBA has created this false impression that players are free to do whatever they want and get whatever they want when the reality is that privilege is only reserved for the elite of the elite. Uncertainty looms for plenty others, and the mental toll that can take goes far beyond earnings and fame.
The 31-year-old admitted he had no intention of settling because he knew what level he can still play at, and that his main goal was just to be happy. After earning over $65 million during his nine-year NBA career (for now at least), the CBA may be just the platform he needs to showcase the level he believes he can still play at, if not be happy at the very least.
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