Houston Rockets: The Real Target is Jeremy Lin’s money, not race.

Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

Let’s face it, race did have a factor in the rise of Jeremy Lin last season.  You can argue it was the numbers, or it was the story of an undrafted kid out of Harvard who went from being cut twice, to being on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Or it was Lin becoming the first NBA player to score at least 20 points and have seven assists in each of his first five starts, scoring over 136 points over those five starts, which was the most by any player since the NBA/ABA merger.  But the elephant in the room was always the fact that somehow, someway, an Asian player is suddenly getting all the attention in the NBA?

Earlier this week, in an interview with Yahoo! Sports expert Adrian Wojnarowski, the Houston Rockets point guard said that he has felt criticism due to the fact of not only his new lucrative contract, but also his heritage.

Lin stated, “I was a little surprised, but I wasn’t shocked. I honestly feel it’s part of the underlying issue of race in American society … of being an Asian-American. I haven’t figured it out. I haven’t wrapped my head around it. But it’s something I’m thinking about.”

But the question is: Is the criticism really an issue of race? Or is it an issue of performance? Let’s point out some of the obvious before I get to my point.  Through eight games this season, Lin is averaging 10.9 PPG, 6.1 APG, while shooting 35% from the field, and a dismal 27% from three.  That ranks him 19th in the league in PPG for point guards, and 17th in the league in APG for point guards.  Some of the names that rank ahead of him? Brandon Jennings of the Bucks, (who is making $3.1 million this year) Damian Lillard of the Blazers, ($3 million this year) Ty Lawson of the Nuggets, ($2.5 million) and Kemba Walker of the Bobcats ($2.4 million), compared to Lin’s $8.3 million.  While Lin does rank 3rd in the league in steals per game for point guards, Jennings and Walker both rank ahead of him, not to mention that Jennings has Milwaukee in first place in the Central Division, and Walker has the Bobcats above .500 after the team set the record for lowest winning % in NBA history last season.

So then why should point guards like Jennings, Lillard, Lawson, or Walker not treat Jeremy Lin like a target when they play him? Why should they NOT feel unappreciated or under-valued when they play against Lin by their respective franchises, and the NBA?  How is a player who is clearly outperforming Lin, while getting paid significantly less, and receiving way less attention and endorsements than him, not want to absolutely embarrass or dominate him whenever they get a chance?

Let’s be clear: I am not dismissing race in all of this, it clearly has a part.  When you are the first in anything, or clearly a minority in a field, as Lin is really the first well-known Asian American NBA player, you automatically become a target.  Just ask Jackie Robinson, James Harris, or even recently, Yao Ming.

“I’ve always been a target,” Lin says. “Everyone looks me and says, ‘I’m not going to let that Asian kid embarrass me. I’m going to go at him.’ That’s how it’s been my whole life. This has been different, though. Now, I was on the scouting report. People started to pay attention to what I could and couldn’t do. But a target? I was used to that. I’m not saying I get everyone’s best shot, but I would say people don’t want to be embarrassed by me because of my skin color.”

As an Asian American man, I completely understand with where Lin is coming from as I too, grew up around the game of basketball, and went through some of the same statements.  But in the NBA in 2012, most players will not think that way. There are other incentives of why players do not want to be embarrassed by another player, with race being at the bottom of the list, if at all.  If Jeremy Lin was a backup point guard making the salary minimum this year, would he still be a target? Absolutely not.

The real target lies in Jeremy Lin’s paycheck, and if Lin’s sub-par production continues, much more criticism will continue throughout the season.

Topics: Houston Rockets, Jeremy Lin, NBA, Race

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  • bball

    This is just nonsense.

    So you think that Lin is overpaid, and that’s the reason he
    becomes a target.

    First whether he is overpaid is debatable, and at least too
    early to have a conclusion now.

    But he is talking about that he is a target not just after
    he got a contract with Rockets!

    And is there any other player has been overpaid before him
    and right now in NBA? Does anybody become a target for that?

    Be ridiculed by one’s own teammates?

  • Michael Ma

    bball,

    I did not say Lin is overpaid, I said there are players right now who are producing more than he is, who make significantly less and have significantly less attention, thus making Lin a target for those players.

    Lin being a target before his contract was primarily based on race, as he clearly states. But Lin being a target now is primarily based on his contract, attention, endorsements, etc. mixed with the fact that a number of point guards in the NBA are producing, and think they are better than Lin.

    Sure, there are a number of players in the NBA who have been overpaid, and yes, they have been targets, (Jon Koncak,

    Jim McIlvaine, Jerome James) but name another player who has had the type of attention Lin has gotten over a short span of performance. The mixture of that is what makes him a target now from other point guards

    • bball

      Fair enough. Thx for reply.

    • Chewbacco

      Lin had the attention and the hype because 1) he scored 161 points in the first 6 games NBA record, 2) he’s Asian. Now you’re saying he’s being targeted for the attention and the hype, then being Asian is what got him the attention in the first place.

      • Michael Ma

        Thanks for the comment Chewbacco,

        Like I said, being Asian had a part of what got him the attention in the first place, but if he is currently a back-up point guard making the minimum salary, would he be a target? No.

        He is being targeted because other point guards who are seeking the same type of money, or even more will see him as a target now to outperform him so they too, can cash in on their potential free agent contracts. Can you blame them when a number of other point guards have outperformed him thus far?

        • Chewbacco

          You’re welcome Michael.

          So it’s the combination of the four things that made him being targeted by other PGs.
          1) Being Asian 2) the Hype/Attention, Endorsement deals are part of the Hype/Attention by the way 3) his starting job 4) his high contract salary.

          I don’t believe that and here’s why. If this year he averages 19 points per game, 8 assists, 3rd in the league in steals with low turnovers, and making the All-Stars game. He would still be targeted by other PGs & defenses in the league. Other PGs in the league will be just as jealous of him and would target him even more. So the starting job and contract reasons are only excuses right now because it’s true, not because those are legitimate reasons. Lin could be playing great and they still target him.

          Besides, there have been other players in the league that do not deserve to start with high contracts, Landry Fields being one and there are many other players too, Landry does not get targeted.

          Again, you will say it’s the combination of all 4 points that makes him unique, but if other PGs stop hating him and start looking at him normally, he’s not doing anything different other than him being Asian. #3 and #4 are not uncommon compared to some other undeserving starters, #1 and #2 being Asian was part of what got him the attention in the first place.

          This year is the first year of his contract, I think Lin is purposely playing bad. He thinks that would put him off the radar and off the scouting reports as the main guy. I think he’s putting up bad numbers hoping to be less targeted by other PGs and opposing defense. I think Lin is wrong though, I think it does not matter how he plays, playing great or terrible he’s still going to be targeted. Although with him playing bad, he’s going to get some wide open shots, other defenses will allow him to shoot some wide open 3′s if his shooting percentage is below 30%, like that wide open three at the end of the game against Miami.

          • Michael Ma

            Chewbacco,

            I think you are mistaking players treating Lin as a target vs players hating on Lin. I did not state that players hated on Lin, I do not believe most NBA players will necessarily hate someone else unless they’ve been involved in altercations or disputes: If Lin averages 19 PPG, 8 APG, and makes the all-star game (which I think he eventually will), he most certainly will get his praise, respect, and surely no hate. But if for the rest of the season he continues to rank in the bottom half in production for point guards, then fellow point guards who are set to have expiring contracts will most definitely see him as a target to outplay him when they get to go against him, in order to define themselves, in order to get the same type of contract.

            Lin is not purposely playing bad, he still is not 100% from knee surgery, plus having to learn to play with new teammates, as well as another player who has to play with the ball in his hands most times in Harden.

          • Chewbacco

            I posted this above by accident, moving it down here to the right place.

            I did not say you stated other players hating on Lin, that is purely my opinion of what I think about other PGs toward Lin. Jealousy is more of a correct PC word describing what other players feel toward Lin, but jealousy based on race to me is very close to hating.

            They’re targeting Lin to try to get similar or better contracts than Lin is not a good legitimate reason for 2 grounds.
            1) as I already stated, some other players doing the same thing as Lin, under-performing as a starter with high contracts but they don’t get the scrutiny, jealousy, targeting from other players in the league at the same position. I gave an example which is Landry, coincidently Landry is Lin’s best friend.
            2) There are point guards who just want to show off against Lin and those PGs are not even playing at decent level throughout all their games, maybe they just want to make Lin look like a bad defender. However, Lin is tied for 3rd in the league in steals so Lin can’t be that bad of a defender. For example, Greivis Vasquez before the game against Houston, he averaged only 10 points per game shooting a dismal 30% from the field, but against Lin he put up 8 of 15 for 24pts and 9 assists. Was it a coincident that he had his career game against Lin, what was he trying to prove? He definitely was not trying to prove he’s worth a better contract with those dismal average for numbers.

            I think when Lin gets 19pts 8 assists in his 3rd year, he will definitely get the respect, but in this year the 1st year even if Lin plays great he still has doubters, is he a fluke, etc. Also, Lin is something new that other players are not getting used to yet, even if Lin performs above average. Even if Lin plays great this year, they still want to target him and want to test him out this entire year, to see if Lin’s legit.
            I’m not saying the targeting will last with him for the rest of his career, other players will get used to him eventually. Right now in the 1st year, Lin is like a mystery to them that they’re trying to figure out by targeting, is Lin legit or is he a bust, a scrub, etc.

            Despite getting used to the knee and getting used to the new players, new system, etc, I think Lin could put up better numbers this year. Something in the range of 13pts per game, 6 assists, shooting 41%, that line of numbers are below average but I didn’t think he could do worse than that which is why I think he is underperforming and putting up bad numbers on purpose. His goal is to get himself off the radar from defenses zooming in on him.

            Michael, if you’re concerned that I support Lin using the race card and I support Lin playing bad, then you are wrong my friend. I only stated facts for better understanding of the situation, I rather want Lin not to use the race card and I want to see Lin put up much better numbers this year. However like I said, it does not matter if he plays good or bad this year he will still be targeted, no matter what. He has to get used to being targeted because he’s a mystery to them right now and targeting is their way of figuring Lin out.

        • Chewbacco

          Double post, I replied to the wrong post by accident.

  • ForTheLin

    Lin is actually making about $5 million this year. The $15 million kicks in his third year. It’d be a good idea to reserve judgment until then. The NBA is filled with players with insane contracts. If you don’t think Lin’s worth his contract, that’s fine, but it’s stupid to think players are out for Lin because of his contract. I can totally understand how people resent him for his race, though, just as they did Jackie Robinson.

  • passerby

    well it may seem that Jlin is not playing like what he play in NY right now but his personality , up coming to NBA from Harvard, being the 2nd NBA asian idol ,his approach on faith, marketability worth more then his pay check or it may just simply because he’s a rare one, most of the time we pay for Potential. for me following him and his team is much more fun then watching reality show.

  • rocket science

    nba is in the entertainment industry…. the players are products. if one player is more marketable than another.. then he should be paid more. it’s not rocket science… ok… he’s on the rockets.. so maybe it is…

  • Mo

    Great job on comparing Lin to point guards that are rookies with rookie contracts. He’s making 5 mil this year, Jennings AND Lawson are making far more next year.

  • Tony Chang

    If I were Lin, I also hate to play for Rocket now. I don’t know what kind of position he plays. Have you ever been a feeling that you don’t know what are you fighting for? To be a PG can’t handle the ball!? It’s really redicious. To be honest, most of Asian fans watch Rocket games for Lin. But if we want to watch another NBA player running the show, we would rather foot to Miami Heat.

    • John Marshall

      Exactly. He needs to control the offense. But he needs to make his shots though. Watching too much Harden’s ISO plays and they are not very successfully makes me sick.

  • Huang Jean

    If Rockets keep running JHarden playing PG and SG at the same time and save Lin out of ball, I think it will happen soon that all of Asian fans never foot to Rockets.

  • http://twitter.com/shards_of_jen shards_of_jen

    these players are just envious and jealous of what jeremy is getting– money, attention, etc… the reality is they can never be jeremy… they need to live with it. also, they think that basketball is only for them…

  • Tom Nguyen

    I agree, but it’s not Lin’s fault. If someone offered you that kind of money, would you reject it?

  • eddie1234

    Jeremy being a target has nothing to do with his pay. Everyone targeted him last year and how much was he making???? Hello !!!!!!

  • ry_an_derson

    This is one of the most absurd articles I’ve come across.

    1) one of the most common criticism of Lin is that his last season’s sample size of 26 games is too small to judge him. But now you are judging him based on a sample size of only 8 games? Are you serious? Why the double standard? Case in point: Stephen Curry’s FG% for this season (8 games so far) is 37%. His career avg is 47%. Case 2: how is Damian Lillard who has started only 8 games better than Lin? Lin’s first 8 starts are way better than Lillard’s numbers. In fact Lin broke the NBA record for the most points scored in his first 5 starts! He also became the first NBA player (since NBA-ABA merger) to score at least 20 points and have seven assists in each of his first five starts. The point is – isn’t it too early to judge if Damian Lillard is better than Lin?

    2) Ty Lawson is making $50.5M over the next 5 yrs (including this season) i.e. $2.5M, $12M, $12M, $12M, $12M from 2012/13 to 2016/17. That’s far more than what Lin is getting. The huge jump in salary is due to the fact that his rookie contract is expiring & he’ll be getting paid as a free agent for the next 4 seasons. (FYI the NBA placed a max limit on the rookie first few yrs’ salary depending on their draft position.) So how can you compare rookie scale salary to the salary of FAs? Similarly, Brandon Jennings’ rookie contract will be expiring soon & the Bucks will hv to sign him to a lucrative extension or they’ll lose him to free agency (similar to the Knicks losing Lin due to RFA). To give you an idea of what Brandon Jennings will be getting, his teammate Monta Ellis is getting 11M for this season, which is way above what Lin is getting. Kemba Walker (drafted in 2011) is also currently under the rookie contract. (And you compare Lin to the pg for the worst team in NBA history, seriously? Winning records means nothing to you?)

    Is it a coincident that all the pgs that you mentioned are currently under rookie scale contracts or is this a devious way to mislead the readers? If you are ignorant of the fact that these pgs are under rookie scale contract, pls check out the facts before you embarrass yourself with such poorly written article that paints a grossly distorted picture to mislead the readers.

    • Michael Ma

      Thanks for the comment ry_an_derson,

      You are right about the Ty Lawson contract, I was not aware that he recently signed an extension.

      The point I’m making with these players who are set to have rookie contracts expire is the fact that they will use Lin’s salary as a status quo for themselves. For example, Jennings had the option to re-sign this past summer with the Bucks, but has chosen to test the market next summer as an unrestricted free agent. Don’t you think he will be seeking a pay that is above what Lin is making as players like him believe they can outperform Lin, so why should they not get paid more than him? In no way have I criticized Lin’s play after 8 games, I have simply said he has been outperformed by point guards who currently make less than him, thus they see him as a target to outperform him once they get a chance to play him, in order to cash in themselves once they can with salary, attention, endorsements, etc. That’s what makes him a target.

      Monta Ellis is not a point guard, and of course, of the 18 point guards who are currently outperforming him, there are players who make more than Lin (Paul, Deron Williams, etc.), but they are irrelevant in this case. It is the players who are making less (Dragic, Jrue Holliday, etc.) veterans, or young point guards whose rookie contracts are set to expire who have an added incentive to outperform Lin in order to cash in for themselves eventually. So please, read the article and understand it fully before you label it as “absurd”, as it clearly has it’s merit.

      • TheSportsAuthority

        Anderson came legit. Ma is being too PC. Besides the rookie scale…this is a league where Kwame Brown has gotten $10 million and Luke Walton $6 million a season KNOWING what they were going to give you. Let’s be real…the idea that Jeremy Lin is the poster boy for being “overpaid” is BEYOND ABSURD. Period. Lin was a FA, an overnight sensation and global phenomenon. He got what someone was willing to give. Just like everyone before him.
        Now I do agree that Lin shouldn’t be worrying himself about the race issue on the NBA level. Besides the professional pay aspect, it’s an international game. Of course, being Asian American is unique and was a major factor in this story among many.
        But the issue mindset. He plays best being aggressive and attacking and looking to score. He was a scorer in HS winning Northern California POY Honors and a State title. He was a scorer in Harvard setting records. He was a scorer every time he got shipped down to the D-League. And he was a scorer when he burst onto the scene and the world witnessed something they had never seen.
        An Asian-American player excelling and starring in the NBA. Of course we all took notice. What needs to be accepted is that Lin, star or not, is a legitimate NBA point guard with skill, youth and upside.

  • megadon

    Who told you to write this bs article? O’m starting to thonk that you clearly have an agenda against lin. Just like steven slander smith and the daily news. I’m not buying your bs and neother should pepple who are fans of the rockets. bought and paod for you are. I will never read your atupid articles again.

  • Jerry Chen

    THE 25 MILLIONS include revenues Houston will get back from millions of ciizens from China and Taiwan. So he is not overpaid. Lin is a targeted marketing machine. Houston will cherry pick winning highlights from Lin’s play and market them with shirts, accessories, etc.. Who’s going to buy Melo’s shirts in China? If not about race, go check out comments of youtube videos of LIn’s airball…racist comments against asians. If not about race, Jason Kidd would not do a flagrant foul on Lin last year, while the referree “didn’t see it.” Who cares..Asian is going to rule anyway.