By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Jeremy Lin and the Los Angeles Lakers visited the Portland TrailBlazers on Wednesday, February 11th, the last night before the NBA teams headed into the All-Star Break when the league takes a week off in preparation for the second half of the season. Lin has tailed off since being with the Lakers but the emergence of rookie Jordan Clarkson may spark some interest in an otherwise dismal season for the team. Clarkson, who is half-Filipino may be the new Asian American NBA player to follow.
As Lin was visiting the Portland area and a week before Chinese New Year, the Blazers promoted the night as “Asian Heritage Night.” It was the third annual night put on by the team. There have been similar nights in other NBA cities. Most have been done around Lin’s visit to its city. Notably, the Linsanity craze started three years ago this February. Groups were invited to come to the game with the opportunity to see Lin and the Lakers. At the end of the game, any ticketholder purchasing a ticket through the “Asian Heritage Night” promotion could come onto the court and shoot a free throw and take pictures. Also, a portion of each ticket sold through the promotion would go back to support API Forward.
The organization is an education foundation that supports the advancement of Asian and Pacific Islanders in Oregon and Southwest Washington. According to the Blazers’ web site, the organization’s mission is to develop through education and professional development, civically-engaged and socially-responsible API leaders and professionals. Per a Facebook message, an individual with API Forward indicated that she knew of 11 individuals that attended the event through the promotion.
Prior to last Wednesday, the Blazers called off Asian Heritage Night due to lack of interest.
According to a Blazers’ spokesperson, all persons that purchased a ticket through the promotion were honored. This included allowing the ticketholders the opportunity to go down to the court and take pictures as originally scheduled.
While the promotion was done in conjunction with Lin’s visit, Linsanity has fallen off since his dramatic rise. In his standard pre-game interview with the press, Lakers coach Byron Scott stressed the need for Lin to be a more consistent player. Lin, who now comes off the bench for the Lakers as its back-up point guard, has seen minutes and points per game decline this season. The Lakers are a team without its leader, Kobe Bryant, whose season ended earlier this year due to injury.
As witnessed by the Lakers play on the court, the team makes many mistakes on the offense and defensive ends which resulted in a loss by nearly 20 points to the Blazers. While the Blazers are one of the top teams in the NBA, the Lakers ended the first half of the NBA season at 13 wins and 40 losses which makes them one of the worst teams in the league this year.
As for Lin, he has not produced as one may have thought he would have with the team. In the game against the Blazers, he missed his first 6 shots and earned two quick fouls. He was outplayed by Portland’s guards and looked rattled by the defensive pressure. With all of his jump shots he was falling away from the basket. He was not able to make any successful drives to the basket. Portland just had too much pressure on him. Lin ended the game with just 2 points, both from the free throw line.
On the other end of the spectrum was Lakers rookie guard Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson, whose mother is Filipino has benefitted from the Lakers lack of success by being given additional playing time to see what he could add to the team. So far so good. The slim, 6 foot 5, 185 pound guard has averaged 13 points in his last 10 games which almost doubles his season average. Opportunity is what he attributes the surge in production. He was the leading scorer for the Lakers against the Blazers with 17 points.
In post-game, Clarkson’s teammate Ed Davis, whose locker was next to Clarkson’s chimed in that opportunity is what helped the rookie when the question of his improved play was asked. Clarkson agreed, “What he said.”
Admittedly Clarkson was surprised by the outpouring of support from his Filipino fans. “I was really surprised. I know basketball is big over there but I didn’t think that that many people would be supporting me.” Clarkson recalls his grandmother and mother cooking him chicken adobo and lumpia for him when he was young but he was primarily raised by his dad. “I appreciate it,” Clarkson said of his Filipino fans, “and will continue to make them proud.” (end)
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.