One game interested me more than the others on my first day at the Las Vegas Summer League: Washington vs. Dallas. It had so many things that would be interesting to me as not only a basketball fan… but as a Celtics fan as well.
You had Sam Cassell coaching the squad, JR GIddens playing for the Mavs, Lester Hudson playing for the Wiz… and oh yeah… #1 overall draft pick and already-crowned-phenom John Wall.
What I didn't count on was Harvard grad Jeremy Lin stealing the show, and almost the game, from John Wall.
Wall is pretty damn good, but you didn't need me to tell you that. I look forward to seeing what he can do with actual NBA players by his side… meaning when JaVale McGee isn't the second best player on the team (he was dunking all over the place). Wall didn't shoot well, but he did have 10 assists and, after 8 turnovers in each of his first 2 games, he only gave it up 3 times in this one. One of those was totally not his fault, as he made a great pass in the lane and his target just was nowhere near ready for it.
Funny aside: After one particularly ugly shot (a long desperation 3, but still an ugly shot)… one guy in my section said "that ball had no rotation on it at all" and a member of the Hornets contingent said "that was the flattest shot I've ever seen. We've got the new Rondo." Could be worse, I suppose, for Wall. But what this guy doesn't realize is that Rondo probably shoots best when the buzzer is about to go off.
Anyway. Giddens didn't do much at all. Hudson hit a few shots. And if you read my earlier mention of Sam Cassell as the head coach and thought "… huh, I think that would be fun to watch, actually"… then you'd be on point. It was very fun. He's still Sam, but he's in this in-between world of still being point guard but also teaching others. So that just means he's still having fun and being Sam out there.
On to Lin, who thrust himself into the spotlight in this game.
A few of us already knew his story. But not everyone did. In fact… I was sitting in the press/team section behind one of the benches a few rows up from Brian Shaw earlier in the day when Lin's high school coach approach him. He introduced himself as Lin's former coach and Shaw paused for a minute and said… "I don't know who that is."
Well Brian, now you know.
Lin is the Harvard grad who is trying to become the first ever American-born Asian to make an NBA roster. He's made some decent impressions before, but nothing like this one. He made a few decent plays in the first half… a nice cross over on Wall that drew the first oooh's out of the crowd. Then he hit someone with a great backdoor pass for a lay up. Wizards assistant Randy Wittman was sitting next to me and I asked flat out "is this kid going to make someone's roster?"
His reply: "I LIKE him."
Lin turned it on in the second half, repeatedly finding ways to the rim, taking contact, and finding teammates. He finished with 13 points, but it definitely felt like more. The Mavs were down big early in this game but behind Lin, they came back to cut the lead to 4. Lin's big moment was when he was called for a charge that the crowd didn't like. A packed house… one that was packed, remember, to see Wall do things like this… booed loudly at the borderline call.
It reminded me of the scene in Gladiator: "Win the crowd… and win your freedom"
Lin won the crowd this this game. And while he didn't win the game, he might have won an invitation to make someone's roster.
Here's some video I shot of Wall in warmups and of the game.
And here's my interview with Jeremy Lin: