Casey Chan turned to me yesterday and asked, "Are you going to the game tonight?" What? "The Knicks game. Lin's starting." What? "Yeah, StubHub's at like 11 bucks." We're going.
Actually, I went. Casey flaked. It was legitimately the most fun I've ever had at a pro game. The other 10,000 Asians in attendance [approximate] seemed to agree. Word had traveled fast.
On the way in, I saw Jeremy Lin jerseys out for sale. There were some guys who were being all sad-bro about Baron Davis's latest medical delay, and I got into it a little with them—more about Baron's merits than about anything else. We all sort of agreed Lin probably wouldn't be the answer.
The Knicks' recent past is rotten with young players who the hype train had to talk itself into. Wilson Chandler, David Lee, Nate Robinson, Channing Frye, even Gallinari at first—players who won you over with metrics or box scores or Kryptonite shoes, not crossovers and alley-oops and and-1s. Sometimes Landry Fields looks like he just came from high-school gym class. Iman Shumpert can't dribble with his left hand. Mozgov is a verb now.
Lin looks different. Looks, because, well, it's two games and regression is more likely than spontaneous evolution. But also because his game—after two games—looks like it might maybe could-be translate into an honest to goodness starter's skill set. Not "Oh he'd be a really good bench guy if we could just get a good team together."
At the very least, he looks like a point guard. It's been a while since fans could watch the Knicks play with a point guard. Early on, the crowd was buzzing, but it felt like the excitement around a sideshow. The guy next to me had brought his kid, maybe six years old, with him. By the second quarter, all he wanted to talk about was Lin. "That's my next jersey right there," he said. "One, seven." And: "I like this kid. You know he went to Harvard? That's smart right there, doesn't need basketball."
Smart kid, went to Harvard—obviously, Lin's being Asian is a significant part of what makes him a curiosity. Asians in the crowd were high-fiving random other Asians: "That boy's the truth." "Chi-NEESE starting point guard!" Yet Lin doesn't seem to be caught in the scrappy-white-guy sinkhole. People talk about their fascination, but still talk about him as a basketball player.
The best possessions were the ones where he'd start with his crossover sequence well outside the three-point line. You could feel everyone waiting to go OOOHHHH. About halfway through the third, he crossed over off a screen and split the defense, and the crowd went totally nuts. It always looks awkward; he pushes the ball ahead of his body and just squirts through. No one really cared when he made a few turnovers that way.
My GroupMe feed was going nuts with exclamation points, but because I have a way of getting stuck staring at my phone during the most exciting plays of games, I was trying to ignore it as much as possible. The Garden lost its shit on his late and-one, and lost it again when he drained the three to close out the game.
After the buzzer, I went to hang out by the table of jerseys, to watch the rush on No. 17. One woman looking for a Lin shirt saw me there and asked if I was his publicist. Little white girls were running up to buy them; so were two middle-aged black women. A giddy Asian dude, accompanied by his girlfriend, bought the last one. They'd sold out within 10 minutes.