By Jason Cruz
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Jeremy Lin has hit a low point after winning a championship. This is our top story in this edition of The Layup Drill.
In June, Lin was at the top of his basketball career with the Toronto Raptors. As many NBA players dream, Lin won an NBA Championship—the culmination of a career and to earn a ‘ring’ is something special that even some Hall of Fame players have not obtained.
Notwithstanding the career high, Lin now faces uncertainty in finding another team to play for as his time with the Raptors seems to be at an end. Lin barely got off of the bench in the NBA Finals and was nonexistent throughout the playoffs. He had signed with the Raptors from the Atlanta Hawks as insurance in case starter Kyle Lowry got injured or needed time to rest during games. But the emergence of second-year player Fred VanVleet cut into Lin’s possible backup playing time and he was relegated to third string and rarely used off the bench.
On tour in Taiwan this summer, Lin broke down about his NBA career, admitting that free agency has been hard. Lin started to cry in front of the crowd in attendance, saying that the “NBA has given up on me.” He questioned whether he earned the championship and stated that he wished that if he had a son, he’d never play in the NBA because you have to deal with being famous, the constant public scrutiny, and having everyone watch you fail. He told the shocked crowd that it’s been ‘tough’ finding another team.
Lin’s career has seen him jump from team-to-team-to-team without a real place to call home. While he’s had a huge fanbase, he hasn’t stuck with a team longer than two years. He’s also suffered injuries along the way, including a knee injury which sidelined him for all but one game in the 2017-2018 season.
Pacquiao back to old form
At the age of 41, Manny Pacquiao does not look to be retiring from the boxing ring any time soon. Showing signs of the flash, speed, and relentlessness that made him one of the most popular fighters ever, Pacquiao won a split decision over previously undefeated Keith Thurman. Pacquiao knocked Thurman down in the very first round and dominated Thurman with overwhelming combinations with his customary in and out style. He did have to withstand several high spots from Thurman through the fight and showed signs of fading toward the end but staved off the younger challenger.
After the fight, it was clear that Pacquiao is willing to continue his career. Even though he is a senator in the Philippines and is getting used to being a statesman, there was no sign that he is retiring anytime soon. Pacquiao’s chin remained solid as he shook off several devastating punches from Thurman without even pulling back.
Pacquiao’s popularity has wavered in the past but fans were in full force for him last month in Las Vegas where the event took place. This win was the most impressive in several years. Thurman was the most formidable opponent for Pacquiao since his knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez almost 10 years ago. He was favored by bettors to win the bout but mostly because Filipino fans bet on him.
The high volume of tickets sold may be due in part to the amount of tickets Pacquiao purchased himself. According to the Nevada Athletic Commission in response to a public records request, Pacquiao paid $1.2 million in tickets for the event. Pacquiao has a huge following and there is some latitude in providing tickets for fighters—especially for someone like Pacquiao. Clearly, Pacquiao had more tickets to give out than he was allotted and paid for a huge number of fans to come. The commission reported that Pacquiao received $10 million for the fight, although it is widely rumored that he received many more millions.
The amount of money Pacquiao paid for tickets is astounding but his devotion to charity has been his hallmark. It’s been documented that locals line up at his residence in the Philippines requesting money, and he gives it. As a senator, Pacquiao has sought to help out the people in his province. In the past, he has paid out of his own pocket to build 1,000 homes in his hometown. There has been speculation that Pacquiao’s boxing career will continue in order to sustain the amount of charity he is providing.
With the win, it seems that Pacquiao’s profile is back in vogue, that is if you can put aside his past rhetoric about homosexuality, his support of bringing back the death penalty, and his alignment with the current Philippines president, Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte’s administration has been investigated for human rights during his “war on drugs.” It would seem that many fans have come to grips with liking the fighter in the ring even though they might disagree with his beliefs outside of it.
Another fight with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has been rumored despite their lackluster fight from several years back. But money seems to be the biggest driver in prizefighting and if the parties are willing to put up the money, the fight will happen.
Naomi Osaka fizzles at Wimbledon
After winning two straight Grand Slam titles, Naomi Osaka failed to reach the second week at the last two majors.
Once ranked No. 1 in the world, Osaka lost to Yulia Putinseva in the first round at Wimbledon on July 1. Osaka had 38 unforced errors on Centre Court, while Putinseva had only seven. Osaka later cut short her news conference, leaving before any questions were asked in Japanese. “Can I leave?” she asked the moderator after several short answers. “I feel like I’m about to cry.”
This follows Osaka’s third-round loss at the French Open in May. Before that, she had won her first major title at last year’s U.S. Open, then continued the unbeaten run by adding the trophy at the Australian Open in January.
Shortly after that, Osaka split from coach Sascha Bajin. When asked if there could be a correlation between Bajin’s departure and her recent results, Osaka replied, “I don’t think it’s related at all.”
Seven of Osaka’s eight losses in 2019 have come against players ranked outside the top 20.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.