The Philadelphia 76ers are coming off a pretty successful season, making a second consecutive trip to the NBA playoffs under head coach Doug Collins. The Sixers had a strong run in the postseason defeating the Chicago Bulls in the first round before losing to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals in seven games.
The offseason is here. The Sixers have made some strides over the last few seasons, but they need to make some additional improvements in order to get to the next level. That could be a better position in the conference standings, which could help them get to the Eastern Conference finals.
The Sixers will be working out a number of NBA prospects in the coming weeks. The NBA draft will take place on June 28. The team will take a good look at the list of free agents. Of course, they have their own free agents who require some attention such as Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen and Jodie Meeks. Guard Lou Williams has an early termination option in his contract and could opt out if he chooses to exercise that right.
There are some interesting names on the NBA free agent list. The Sixers could definitely use some help in the frontcourt. Three names that stick out right away are restricted free agents JaVale McGee (Denver Nuggets), Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers) and Jason Thompson (Sacramento Kings).
McGee, a 7-foot, 252-pounder, was a first round pick of the Washington Wizards four years ago. The Wizards traded him to the Denver Nuggets in March. McGee helped the Nuggets land a spot in the playoffs. In fact, he played extremely well against the Los Angeles Lakers in the postseason. The Nuggets took the Lakers to seven games, losing in the final game. McGee averaged 8.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks a game. He was a big factor around the basket. He ran the floor and caught a number of alley-oop passes from playmaker Andre Miller.
Hibbert, a 7-foot-2, 260-pounder, was a real force around the basket. He had a big year for the Pacers. He made the all-star team this season and carried the Pacers to the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Miami Heat where they lost in six games. He averaged 11.7 points and 11.2 rebounds a game in the playoffs. He can score from the outside. He can rebound, defend and score around the basketball.
Thompson, a former Rider College and South Jersey basketball star, can play in the post. The 6-foot-11, 250-pounder, averaged 9.1 points and 6.9 rebounds a game.
For restricted free agents, teams can match any offer that’s made from other teams.
Kris Humphries is an unrestricted free agent from the Brooklyn Nets. Humphries would be a great addition to the Sixers. He can run the floor, score inside, rebound and play good defense. The 6-foot-9, 235-pounder, averaged 13.8 points and 11.0 rebounds a game.
In the backcourt, the Sixers may want to grab a point guard to help the run offense. They could sign a good playmaker that would help their young tandem of Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday like Jeremy Lin (New York Knicks) and Raymond Felton (Portland Trail Blazers).
Lin is a restricted free agent. He exploded onto the NBA scene with his spectacular play this season. Lin came out of nowhere to make a name for himself on the NBA’s biggest stage. He was quite a fan favorite in New York City. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, averaged 14.6 points, 6.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds a game. He missed the playoffs with knee surgery. He could have been a big help to the Knicks in the postseason.
Felton, a 6-foot-1, 205-pounder, is an unrestricted free agent. He averaged 11.4 points and 6.5 assists a game. Felton would be a solid lead guard.
These are just a few names on the free agent list that should get a lot of attention in the coming months.
Doug Davis, former Prep Charter star, who now plays for Princeton, knew that Jeremy Lin, the New York Knicks point guard who has emerged as a national and international basketball star over the last two weeks, was a talented player. Davis didn’t know Lin would skyrocket to the top of the basketball world overnight. But he saw where Lin had a lot of talent during his collegiate days at Harvard.
“I played against Jeremy Lin for two years,” Davis said. “He’s a really good player. He had a real good junior year. We played good defense on him. He used picks very well. He could drive to the basket. I remember when he scored 30 points against UConn. That’s a Big East school. That’s big time.”
That should have been a clue there. Lin has been one of the great stories in sports this year. He is one of a handful of Asian American players to ever play in the NBA. Lin, who was born in Los Angeles, is the league’s first Chinese American to become a major star. Already he has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated and the back pages of all the New York City newspapers. He’s on YouTube. He has his own Wikipedia page. Lin has the No. 1 selling jersey in the NBA. It’s amazing. That’s only part of his story.
Lin, a 6-3, 200-pound point guard, played his high school basketball in Palo Alto, Calif. In 2006, he led Palo Alto High School to the state championship. His team had a 32-1 record. He wanted to play for Stanford, but Harvard was the only school that expressed interest in him. So, he decided to play for the Crimson. As a senior, he averaged 16.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.4 steals a game.
After graduating from Harvard, no team selected Lin in the 2010 NBA draft. Lin opened a lot of eyes when he played for the Dallas Mavericks summer league team in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. Lin played extremely well against John Wall, the first overall pick in the draft, who now plays for the Washington Wizards. That was probably the beginning of “Linsanity.”
“I remember when he played against John Wall,” Davis said. “That’s where he got a lot of attention. Everybody saw how well he played against him. I remember people calling me about that.”
After the summer league, Lin signed a contract with the Golden State Warriors. He only played in 29 games with the Warriors, and was waived before the start of training camp. The Houston Rockets signed him on December 11, but let him go after two weeks. The Knicks picked him up off waivers on December 27. He didn’t receive much playing time before New York sent him to the Erie BayHawks in the D-League. The Knicks had thought about releasing him until they had to guarantee his contract for the end of the season.
On February 4, he tallied 25 points, five rebounds and seven assists in a victory over the New Jersey Nets. Of course, his big game was 38 points against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in Madison Square Garden.
“I think everybody saw that game,” Davis said. “That was really something. Ever since then, you keep hearing more and more about him. I think it’s great. My phone has been buzzing about him.”
Davis, a 5-11, 157-pound senior, has played some good basketball throughout his college career. He is averaging 13.1 points a game this season. The Tigers are 13-10 overall and 4-3 in the Ivy League. Ironically, Davis hit a last second jumpshot to help Princeton defeat Harvard to win the league championship and receive the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Lin has led the Knicks to seven consecutive wins. He’s averaging 12.7 points, 5.1 assists and 2.4 rebounds a game.
“Jeremy is playing really well,” Davis said. “He’s got a lot of people excited. He’s really proving himself. It’s a great story.”
It’s OK to make fun of your own crowd, according to old wisdom, but nobody else’s.
That’s not a bad piece of advice for us in the journalism trades to follow as we cover the sudden stardom of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin.
It’s a great story, a narrative that embodies the best virtues that we Americans like to think about ourselves — and defies multiple stereotypes. Lin an Asian-American Harvard graduate and proudly outspoken Christian, passed over for athletic scholarships and draft picks. But he didn’t give up. He warmed benches at two other NBA teams before he turned a recent moment on the floor with the New York Knicks into an incredible winning streak.
Is the “Linsanity” captivating Asian Americans, too? Tuyet Le, executive director of the Asian American Institute in Chicago, described the mood in her office as “cautiously optimistic.” There was joy over Lin’s mighty blow to the stereotype of Asian Americans as nonathletic over-achievers, she said, but there was also an ominous sense of wondering, “When is the other shoe going to drop?”
After all, the flip side to racial breakthroughs is how old stereotypes are replaced by new ones. “As somebody joked,” Le recalled, “‘Do we all have to go to Harvard now and be athletes, too?’”
Such is the mixed blessing of being widely viewed as a “model minority.” It didn’t take long for the other shoe to drop in the world of sports, where the journalism is colorful, the chatter full of trash-talking and sometimes exuberant writers get carried away.
A little innocent fun with the NBA phenom’s inviting surname is understandable and, I hope, amusing. But it didn’t take long for wordplay to move to Lin’s most visible characteristic, his Asian heritage, and take a swift slide into the inflammatory.
The New York Post, for example, broke the wince-inducing headline: “Amasian!” Comedian Jon Stewart, among others, found that to be “very ‘Lin-sensitive.’ “On CBS’ “The Late Show With David Letterman,” Stewart compared it to a headline writer announcing a perfect game by an ethnic hero of baseball, Sandy Koufax, with “Jewtiful!”
The MSG network, which broadcasts Knicks games, aired an image of Lin’s face over a broken fortune cookie with the words: “The Knicks Good Fortune.” That Chinese food reference unfortunately brought to mind a game against Georgetown during Lin’s Harvard days. As a 2009 Time profile recounts, a spectator yelled “Sweet-and-sour pork!” from the stands.
This time we have boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., who stepped on Lin’s moment of glory by tweeting that Lin was only getting all the “hype” because of his race. Of course, wags uttered similar sour grapes about Tiger Woods and President Obama. In each case, performance speaks for itself.
ESPN moved swiftly to take down an unfortunate headline on their mobile site after a Friday night loss: “Chink in the Armor.” It lasted a half-hour and the editor who wrote it was fired two days later. I was reminded of a campaign I reported back in 1975 by Chinese American groups to have the high school in Pekin, near Peoria, change the name of its school teams, long known as the Pekin Chinks.
Locals say the town was named after Peking, China, now called Beijing. The team mascots were a male and female student dressed in traditional Chinese costumes. Amid national news coverage, students voted to hold onto the name of their beloved Chinks, which finally was changed in 1980 to the Pekin Dragons.
That’s a long time, but still shorter than the Washington Redskins or Cleveland Indians, among other teams that are not even close to giving up their ethnic-related names or mascots. Still, I wonder how comfortable they’d feel about a team called, say, the “Cleveland Negroes.”
I still maintain that people should not be severely punished for mistakes they make out of innocence and ignorance. In a society as diverse and persistently segregated as ours still is, it’s not easy to forecast everything that’s going to offend people. I’ve failed more than a few times myself. But after people have told you that they’re offended, that’s a pretty good clue that they are.
E-mail Clarence Page at cpage(at)tribune.com.