By Jason Cruz
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Welcome back to another edition of The Layup Drill. This month, we take a look at the NBA as it finishes up its season, a possible return of a familiar name to the NBA, and Naomi Osaka’s domination at the U.S. Open.
Memphis Grizzlies hires Indian American woman to coaching staff
Sonia Raman was hired by the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies to its coaching staff. Raman spent the last 12 years as the head coach of the women’s team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she was the head coach for the last five seasons. She is the first Indian American woman to be retained by a coaching staff in the NBA.
As the MIT head women’s coach, the team won two titles in its division and two NCAA Tournament berths. She compiled a 91-45 record in her last five years as the head of the program. In addition to her success in the program, she also served on the Coaches Council for the Alliance of Women Coaches, which promotes the leadership of women coaches at all levels.
Raman also coached at Wellesley College for six years and started her college coaching career at Tufts, where she was a four-year player for the women’s team. Raman also has a law degree from Boston College.
She joins Vin Bhavani and Roy Rana as the only other Indian American coaches in the NBA.
Raman’s appointment to the Grizzlies reflects the openness of the NBA and its willingness to hire outside of the traditional norms of male coaches.
Erik Spoelstra brings Heat back to NBA Finals
Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra has brought the Heat back to the NBA Finals to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. It was his second appearance in the NBA Finals since 2011. Ironically, he coached LeBron James in those finals when his team fell short to the Dallas Mavericks.
Spoelstra made it to the finals this year as the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference, which makes his team the fourth lowest seed to make it.
“Coach Spo,” as he’s known to players, started his career as a videographer for the team after his college career at the University of Portland. Spoelstra, whose mother is Filipino, worked his way up in the organization from the film room onto the court as an assistant. Then coach Pat Riley, who is now the team president, saw the hard work and initiative of Spoelstra and made him head coach when he retired. Since then, Spoelstra has been one of the winningest coaches in the NBA and most-respected. He is also one of the longest-tenured coaches as he’s been with the Heat as its head coach since 2008.
Although the Heat will come into the finals as an underdog against the Lakers, Spoelstra’s job in taking this team to the championship series is an accomplishment.
The Return of Linsanity?
Jeremy Lin is returning to the United States to pursue another shot in the NBA.
In September, he announced that he was leaving the Beijing Shougang Ducks, the Chinese Basketball Association team he has been associated with for the last year. Lin had a strong season with the Ducks, averaging 22 points, almost 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.
On the Chinese social platform Weibo, he gave a heartfelt goodbye to his followers in China, “I feel that I still have NBA dreams. I still have time to play and I have to chase this.” Lin’s last time in the NBA went well considering he won an NBA title with the Toronto Raptors.
However, as just a small contributor for the team, he felt unfulfilled with the championship as he did not contribute to the overall team success. He left the NBA to play in China where his popularity remained high.
At 32 years old, Lin still has some time left to try and find an NBA team that is in need of a veteran point guard. He’s spent 10 years in the NBA for a plethora of teams. But he never found the success that he did when he came out of nowhere while playing for the New York Knicks. Albeit a short period of time in 2011, Lin became the talk of New York and Linsanity was born. It’s been nine years since then and Lin has bounced around from team to team.
Despite his popularity, he hasn’t established himself with just one team as its main point guard.
With the league returning sometime at the beginning of 2021, look for Lin to return to the NBA. However, he’ll be competing with players 8-10 years younger than him. While he has experience, the players will have youth on their side. Hopefully, Lin can make one more run with an NBA team.
Osaka wins U.S. Open
Naomi Osaka won the U.S. Open in September before empty stands due to the COVID-19 pandemic in New York. It was Osaka’s second U.S. Open title in her career and she became the first woman to come back to win the title after losing the first set.
Notably, Osaka made a statement each time she walked onto the court for a match as she wore a mask bearing the name of a Black person that died at the hands of the police. Osaka, who is Japanese and Haitian, has been vocal about social justice and the masks were another sign of raising awareness.
At just 22, Osaka is one of the most marketable athletes in the world. She was the highest-earning female athlete of all time by annual income in 2020 and 8th among athletes in endorsement income, according to Forbes.
During the U.S. Open, Osaka was seen wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey while watching other matches. Certainly, the reason for the jersey was to exemplify the “Mamba Mentality.” She said on Instagram, “I wore this jersey every day after my matches. I truly think it gave me strength. Always.” The two had met in June 2019 and Osaka said the former Lakers star became a mentor in the sports world.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.