By JORDAN IKEDA
Rafu Sports Editor
With “The Decision” overshadowing the World Cup finals, the Miami Thrice now organizing a dynasty in Florida, Joe Johnson getting the most money out of any free agent this summer, and the flurry of deals and signings that have kept the Twitter feeds and blogosphere buzzing, what else could happen this NBA offseason to make it any more colorful?
Well, we can officially add a “yellow” streak. As reported, Rich Cho made NBA history Monday by becoming the first Asian to take on the position of general manager. He’s been one of the main factors in the recent organizational success of the Oklahoma City Thunder over the past few years (along with GM Sam Presti and Kevin Durant) and is now getting his chance to run the show with the Portland Trail Blazers, another up-and-coming team.
Wednesday, more good news (though a bit disappointing for those of us in Los Angeles) broke when Bay Area native and Harvard star guard Jeremy Lin signed a partially guaranteed two-year deal with the Golden State Warriors becoming the first full-blooded Asian American in the NBA since Wat Misaka back in the 40s.
Sure, Rex Walters hooped for the Miami Heat at the turn of the century, and as recently as 2008-09, Robert Swift played in 26 games for the Thunder. The difference was that both were hapa, Walters half Japanese and Swift a quarter.
Lin, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound combo guard who was undrafted out of Harvard, is the son of Taiwanese immigrants. He was born and raised in the Bay Area and has gathered somewhat of a cult following as the “Asian American hope” for pro hoops.
Last week, he played for the Dallas Mavericks summer league and piqued the interest of several teams, including the Lakers, by averaging 9.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists in just over 18 minutes per game while shooting 52 percent.
While not eye-popping stats, his stock really skyrocketed after his matchup against John Wall the number one overall draft pick this year. Lin put up a respectable 13 points and four boards, but it was his pesky defense on Wall, his nifty shot selection, and his elusiveness around the basket that got the NBA powerhouses interested.
The Lakers and Mavs showed interest, as did an unnamed Eastern conference team, but Lin chose to stay home. Whether that was the main determining factor, or the guaranteed money in his deal, the former Palo Alto High School star signed up with the Warriors, his favorite team growing up.
There will inevitably be some dissenters out there who will question the guaranteed part of Lin’s deal. After all, maybe a handful of undrafted players sign for guaranteed money before entering training camp, of which I can’t think of any. That being said, let it go. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it’s believed he’s only getting about $300,000 guaranteed. While that seems like a lot of money, the average NBA salary is $5 million. For that matter, the average salary for a second round draft pick is around $500,000.
Besides, Lin will undoubtedly bring in a ton of money in jersey and ticket sales, not to mention a sense of excitement for Bay Area fans who have been pushed down too long by terrible management. I mean, the hoopla surrounding his press conference and how packed out that was, show signs of things to come. After all, Lin to the Bay is like what Lebron was to Cleveland—just on an infinitely smaller scale.
Still torn on whether I’d be happy or sad if in seven years, Lin is featured on “Decision 2017.”
For now, though, all of you playing in the J-Leagues have someone to look up to, who looks like you, who was shunned because he looks like you, and still made it anyways.
Jordan Ikeda is the Rafu sports editor. He can be contacted at Jikeda@rafu.com. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Rafu Shimpo.