By GEORGE TOSHIO JOHNSTON
I was really getting tired of last week’s news and dramatics over whether Carmelo Anthony would join the Lakers or stay in New York and whether LeBron James would bring his talents back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, stay with the Miami Heat or become a Laker. Anthony returned to New York. They can keep him and his (undeserved) ego. James (ego deserved) returned to Cleveland. Bully for him and that burg. The City of the Angels got the better deal. Jeremy Lin is a Los Angeles Laker.
It’s kind of the story of his life, but neither the Knicks nor the Rockets quite knew what to do with Lin, just like the universities he was interested in attending so he could play basketball for them, in spite of his excellent level of play in high school, which was why he attended that basketball powerhouse known as Harvard. Yet I always thought Lin might thrive here. I was hoping, secretly, just in my thoughts, that he might someday become a Laker. So, I was happily surprised it inexplicably happened. Jeremy Lin is a Los Angeles Laker.
I can’t say whether Lin wanted to come to L.A. But I can say that the Lakers management has, after making awful move after awful move, finally made a decent decision. Jeremy Lin is a Los Angeles Laker.
I hope I’m not the only one who thinks this development bodes well for a team that needs rejuvenation. After Lin detonated onto the national stage and consciousness two years ago in one of the greatest underdog to top dog stories ever, he was traded to Houston, with the Knicks’ owner treating him like last week’s leftovers by season’s end. He went to the Houston Rockets but never really got the chance to regain the emotion and elation of those few weeks of glory in the early months of 2012. It wasn’t a good fit, and he again ended up on a team that didn’t quite know what to do with him. But that’s over now. Jeremy Lin is a Los Angeles Laker.
Despite how cool it is to have Lin on the team, there are still many kinks that need to be worked out. The Lakers have no coach. The team also lost the well-liked Pau Gasol. (Let’s face it, though; his best days are behind him. He was also a member of the Spanish national men’s basketball team that infamously posed in a team photo pulling their eyelids up as a “tribute” to the Chinese hosts of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Having him and Lin on the same team would have been awkward.)
Then there’s the biggest X-factor of them all: How will Jeremy Lin and Kobe Bryant get along? Well, the same intuition that told me having Lin on the Lakers would be awesome also tells me that Kobe and Jeremy are going to get along great, their combined talents and drive will be complementary. An aging lion, Kobe will appreciate Lin’s basketball intellect, instinct and work ethic. Lin will no doubt absorb Bryant’s killer instincts and no-nonsense on-court attitude. I can totally see them meshing well together.
There’s also the Steve Nash factor; he can serve as another mentor to the still-young fellow point guard. Lin has proved his doubters wrong again and again, and he has a way of coming up with big plays when it’s game time. Once he finds his groove, the low-expectation Lakers might actually surprise everyone who has written the team off.
Much has been made in the media of how Lin will attract Asian American fans from across Los Angeles and Orange Counties. True. He’ll probably be a draw to Taiwanese and Chinese tourists who come to L.A. once the NBA season begins.
But Lin proved to be a draw beyond just Asian American and Asian fans. In multicultural Los Angeles, he’ll also be embraced by Latino, black and white audiences.
Los Angeles County and California recently lost Toyota to Texas, so it’s poetic justice to know we here in the Golden State actually got something of value from the Lone Star State. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we have received good news. Jeremy Lin is a Los Angeles Laker.
Until next time, keep your eyes and ears open.
George Toshio Johnston has written this column since 1992 and can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect policies of this newspaper or any organization or business. Copyright © 2014 by George T. Johnston. All rights reserved.