Harvard’s Jeremy Lin, photo by Ren Hsieh
When I asked Ali if I could write up Harvard’s Jeremy Lin as one of his aptly coined Deep Cover Chronicles, he blessed me with the banner with one exception, that I come correct and post “no Dave Corzine stuff.” I’m not gonna lie, I had to look up who Corzine was and for a second, I thought he was talking about the 54th Governor of New Jersey. But alas, Ali, I understand. No, Corzines here, Dave, John or otherwise.
So indeed, this post started as a long overdue shout out to Lin, the best chance any PG of Asian descent has ever had of making it to the NBA–the venerable Wat Misaka notwithstanding from the pre-NBA, Basketball Association of America draft, the New York Knicks no. 1 pick in 1937.
Lin, however, certainly has had the most media attention of any Asian PG ever, and he’s easily the most successful American-born Asian player since Misaka. He has popped up on Dime, Slam and even in a Sports Illustrated feature in February. So maybe his cover isn’t all that deep, but much of that coverage seemed to have more of an underlying focus on Lin’s other-ness in this game. His Asian ancestry and his rise to prominence playing in the Ivy League, rather than his actual ability. Not that his ancestry or the rise of Harvard thanks to Lin and the efforts of coach Tommy Amaker to build a legitimate program was undeserving of coverage. There’s certainly more to it but I’ll leave it at that. The SI article covers it.
So, what about the kid’s game? For those who don’t know, the 6-3 senior guard finished the season first team All-Ivy League with 16.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.5 apg and 2.5 spg. Strong college stats but nothing mind-blowing. Add 52% FG shooting for the season and 1.1 bpg and you perk your eyebrow a little. Then throw in Lin’s three games to fame, last year knocking off then no. 17 Boston College with 27 points, 8 assists and 6 steals, this year’s mind-blowing buzzer-beater against William and Mary and 30 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks vs. UCONN and you have a kid who’s a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation’s best point guard, and a lot of buzz from the NBA. Below is a highlight reel from Harvard from a campaign on his behalf for the Cousy Award, which sums it all up nicely:
But, highlights are only highlights. It’s something different entirely to see someone actually play full games. So, this past weekend, the Portsmouth Invitational was a great chance for Lin to uncover his game along with 64 other seniors, almost all of them fringe prospects, looking to get a spot on an NBA roster this summer. Talk about chronicling the deep undercover. At the P.I.T., you could take your pick. But, as I wasn’t actually there, I also had to rely on the coverage of those whom I have a great respect, namely, Rich Twu over at the The Poor Man’s Commish blog.
Outside of Lin’s family and maybe the Harvard Crimson coaching staff, no one covers the exploits of Jeremy Lin more in-depth than Twu. The Bay Area blogger and Dream League commissioner is everywhere. He does his homework and his analysis at the P.I.T. was measured and insightful. Below are some of the quotes he collected when the reviews for Lin came in:
“He’s a guy that I think intrigued a lot of scouts,” said NBA Assistant Director of Scouting Ryan Blake [of Jeremy Lin]. “He wasn’t the top scorer, wasn’t the top assists leader, but he did all the right things, and I think that’s a plus, especially when you get into an environment like that.”
“I talked to the players before the tournament and said this to all of them, ‘Listen, these teams know you can score, they want to know if you can play basketball’—and I think he proved that this week,” Blake added.
“I really like him, I think he has an opportunity, but we also had a lot of strong point guards in this tournament,” Blake said. “Could we see him in the NBA? Yes, absolutely I could see him in the NBA at some point…Will he get drafted? I don’t know…We have so many players that it’s such a fine line between making it and not making it.”
“I thought he got better as the camp went on…it showed that he was able to make adjustments, which speaks to his feel for the game, which is obviously off the charts,” said Jonathan Givony, president of DraftExpress.com.
“Probably the best thing he showed is that he’s just an exceptionally smart player, he’s got great court vision, he’s incredibly unselfish…I thought he had a very strong showing there, and I’m sure he helped himself.”
“For guys like him and 50 other players, there’s just a million different variables, circumstances that need to fall his way in terms of being put in the right situation,” Givony said. “A lot of it has to do with luck…He passed one hurdle, and there’s still a couple more to go. He’s definitely in the picture as far as the NBA is concerned, but he’s not a lock at this point.”
Then there’s the tweet by Ryan Feldman of TheHoopsReport.com, “I don’t think people how realize how good Jeremy Lin is. If I had to take any PG here for my team, it would probably be Jeremy Lin.”
Twu even took video of Lin’s games and cut some of the highlights together. Here are clips from Game 1. Again, nothing mind-blowing but what one can appreciate from this is his confidence, patience and efficiency.
Twu, however, is not merely obsessed with Lin. He’s covered the whole tournament and along with everyone else at the P.I.T., he has discovered a couple of sleepers at PG, Alabama’s Mikhail Torrance and Cal’s Jerome Randle.
The 6-5 Torrance, who I had actually seen play on TV this year in a barnburner at Michigan, may have been the P.I.T.’s biggest surprise. After watching that game against Mich, I just assumed he was already a Top 100 prospect, he was a big, athletic PG with legit handle and good shooting mechanics. How could he not be? But, that’s the great thing about this tournament. Torrance wasn’t on the radar but by the time it was all over, DraftExpress.com had him as “the best long-term upside of any prospect seen in Portsmouth, and clearly the one who made the biggest jump in draft stock.”
Torrance brings with him a skill set that NBA scouts love, including the tools for becoming a great defender, but he also brings an unorthodox game, doing everything on the court with his left hand except shoot, prompting Twu to call him the left-handed “poor man’s Russell Westbrook.”
He flourished in the wide-open style at Portsmouth and running the pick and roll, all things that translate almost directly to the NBA. Then there was the 5-10 Randle, whom DraftExpress actually called, “the most impressive player in attendance [at Portsmouth].”
Randle has been dismissed as too little for the NBA for his entire college career but not one scout, agent or reporter left Portsmouth unimpressed. The kid can play. He’s a born leader and has the heart of well, let’s say a miniature lion. He’s smart and savvy, able to adjust to any defender, and his court vision was touted by consensus as hands-down the best at the tourney. When he calls a play, everybody listens. And, did I mention he can shoot? 51% from inside the line, 40% from three and a whopping 93.3 % from the stripe. He’s a complete player and really, he’s just one of those guys, from Tiny Archibald, Calvin Murphy, Spud Webb, Michael Adams and Muggsy Bogues to Will Bynum, Eddie House, Nate Robinson and Earl Boykins, that would never let their height, or lack thereof, keep them down. You just know he’s going to make an NBA roster. He won’t take no for an answer.
So with other PGs also making a splash at the P.I.T., Lin is still by no means a shoe-in to make the NBA. He has a bit of that jack-of-all-trades curse but master of none, some of that a result of just how much Harvard needed him to do. He’s fast but no Derrick Rose, he’s very athletic but no… well, Derrick Rose, neither is he John Wall. He can shoot well enough, but he’s no Jimmer Fredette, he’s got good vision but he’s no Randle. One thing he does have is mental toughness and a very high game IQ, and as you can see in his highlight video, he’s fearless taking it to the cup.
The way I look at it is like this, and Twu alludes to this, too, if the Phoenix Suns’ Goran Dragic can become a rotation player in the NBA, so can Lin. Whether or not Lin will get drafted isn’t the point, it’s just making a roster, his intangibles should take over from there. At about the same height as Dragic, Lin is stronger and more athletic, with the same upside and he’s younger. And, lord knows he has the sense never to challenge Derrick Rose in the open court, or at least that’s what his game IQ and very self-aware play has led me to believe.
As of this morning, Poor Man’s Commish has reported that Lin has signed with agent Roger Montgomery with whom Gary Payton is Director of Business Operations. Montgomery’s client list includes Maurice Evans of the Atlanta Hawks, Sonny Weems of the Toronto Raptors. The games are over. Now, the business of basketball begins.