Posted Feb 25 2012 12:42AM
ORLANDO -- His press conference lasted longer than his time on the floor, which was by design. Just like a point guard, Jeremy Lin just wanted to make his teammates better.
So the highlights and playing time was shared by Ricky Rubio and Paul George and especially Kyrie Irving, players who haven't generated as much attention as Lin in their combined lives.
Anyone who checked on the Rising Stars Challenge to get a glimpse of the player who's shaking up the NBA had to look fast. Lin was done after throwing a lob to Blake Griffin in the first half and dropping a reverse layup in the second, toweling off after an exhausting eight minutes.
"The experience tonight was a lot of fun," he said. "I didn't play too much but I was glad to be a part of it. Just thankful to spend time with my teammate, Landry Fields, and guys like Blake Griffin."
Lin explained he asked for limited minutes because "I didn't want to play a back-to-back-to-back" -- meaning two games with the Knicks and then the Rising Stars -- but it went deeper than that.
Careful about the cult following he has generated in a short time, Lin simply didn't want to show up the other players, most of them young and eager to create a buzz for themselves. Besides, two weeks ago Lin wasn't even on the radar for this game, designed to showcase the league's up-and-comers.
"I was going to some warm, tropical beach and vacation with my family," Lin said.
What good would it do to play a spirited 25 minutes and try to bring even more visibility to himself, when he already has the media market cornered?
It was a heady decision by the Harvard grad to generate some goodwill instead among his fellow players. Jealousy runs heavy in the NBA, as it does in most any industry. Already, opposing players are coming hard at Lin, unwilling to allow him to build his reputation at their expense. Deron Williams was noticeably aggressive toward Lin earlier this week in a Nets victory, and two days ago in Miami, Mario Chalmers took it upon himself to force Lin into an error-filled game.
So the point guard of the night was Irving, the top overall pick last summer who chose to work on his shooting range. Irving was a perfect eight-for-eight on 3-pointers, and missed only one 2-pointer, and finished with 34 points to win MVP honors. Which proved two things: He's developing into a fine player, maybe Rookie of the Year. And they really don't play much defense in these games.
"It's kind of unfortunate that these stats don't carry over to the season," he said. "But at the end of the day, it was fun to get out there with those talented guys, so it was a great experience."
Irving helped Charles Barkley's team to a 146-133 victory over the Shaquille O'Neal squad, and here were the additional highlights: Rubio threw a court-length pass to Griffin, who then tossed the ball off the glass for a dunk. Also, John Wall posterized himself by dunking so hard, the ball ripped through the net and smacked him in the face.
It was a night for point guards, with Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker and Norris Cole chipping in to throw entertaining passes and deepen an already rich position. And yet, none of them was the point guard everyone came to see.
Linsanity was kept to a minimum in this, the lone All-Star Weekend appearance by Lin. The only reminder of Lin-mania, aside from eight mild minutes of playing time, was a Time magazine cover that Fields playfully flashed after the game. Take a guess who was the coverboy.
"You know," he joked, explaining why Lin couldn't win MVP, "magic can only go so far."
The Knicks sure hope not.
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