All Hail The Conquering Hero – The Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen dubbed it, “Jeremania.” With his performance in Taipei, Jeremy Lin succeeded at one of the most difficult tasks in pro sports. He lived up to expectations.
That highlight reel omitted the second most jaw-dropping play of the day (behind the half-court alley-oop to Parsons), a vicious swat of Danny Granger’s layup. The crowd’s reaction sounds like Cameron Indoor Stadium in March. While I’m not a great preseason basketball historian, I’m going to assert that Lin’s performance on Sunday was the most significant preseason performance of all time. The combination of man, moment, and market has never been replicated. David Stern could not be happier.
Pyrrhic Victory – Jeremania overshadowed one of the biggest storylines of the weekend, which was the clash of the titans between Dwight Howard and Roy Hibbert. If you look at the box scores from the first and second games between the giants, you could make a decent argument that Hibbert won the head-to-head. But I think those numbers don’t accurately reflect how well each team’s big man played his role, and that Howard was, and will be, a key to Houston’s success against Indiana in the regular season, and possibly in the Finals.
If Hibbert focuses his energies on shutting down Howard, then the Rockets can still count on being able to score. Hibbert has the ability to shut down Howard in the post, but he doesn’t have the foot speed (despite excellent positioning) to keep track of Howard on the pick-and-roll and keep Harden, Lin or Parson out of the paint. As long as Hibbert has to worry about tracking Howard–a far more difficult task than stopping Asik last year–Houston’s offense has options.
Conversely, Howard has the strength to guard Hibbert in the post, and the speed to contain pick-and-rolls.
Put another way: an offensively neutered Howard is far less damaging to his team than a defensively limited Hibbert.
Light Reading – For the best pieces on Lin’s triumph in Taiwan from this weekend, check out Jason Friedman’s recap of the game on the team’s official site, and Fran Blinebury’s piece on NBA.com. Blinbury captures Lin’s cultural impact:
“I have been an NBA fan for about 10 years,” said Taiwan native Tony Kuo, 25, who studied business at Michigan State. “The truth is the Pistons were always my favorite back, back from the days of their (2004) championship.
“But when Jeremy first came into the league with the Warriors and then he went to New York and did what he did, well, now he is my favorite and the Rockets are my team.
“I followed Jeremy when he was in Harvard and hoped that he would get a chance. But I wasn’t really sure if an Asian player could ever have the experience he did in New York.
“When Yao Ming played, he was famous here. But nothing like Lin. There is no question that Jeremy Lin is the No. 1 sports celebrity in Taiwan today. I can’t even think of anyone close enough to him to be No. 2.”
Lighter Reading – Ballerball hosts a 5-on-5 debate pitting NBA players against pop culture trifles. Dwight Howard’s foe? Lisa Frank.
Weisert: Dwight Howard would own Lisa Frank in her prime. Wait, sorry, I meant to say Dwight Howard owned Lisa Frank in her prime. His trapper keeper was all LF from front to back.
Sabine: Lisa Frank is strong. In her prime, Lisa Frank played a loud, bold style. But people forget how good 2009 Dwight was. He averaged 20 pts, 15 rebounds, and 2 blocks. He took an average Magic team to the Finals. As much as I love Neon Turtles riding Neon Unicorns (and believe me, I LOVE THEM) Dwight was just too good.
And there’s the state of Dwight Howard’s image in 2013. To some he is one of the most dominant players of a generation; to others he is an emasculated joke. Count me in the first camp, and the sooner Howard can get back to defending the paint instead of defending his free agency decisions, the better.
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