Hornets guard Jeremy Lin visited South Charlotte Middle School on Tuesday after the students finished as some of the top performers in his foundation’s reading challenge.
He spoke to the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders about the virtues of education and how to prevent school bullying.
But in the eyes of some NBA observers and Lin fans, Lin himself has been getting picked on by the league and its officials.
A YouTube video posted last Tuesday that picked up steam over the weekend shows several instances of hard fouls absorbed by Lin on offense that either were not called or were simply called common fouls.
The video, uploaded by a user named JAD 7534 and viewed more than 830,000 times, juxtaposes the perceived non-calls against other, softer fouls that were called flagrant fouls.
It not only shows hard fouls from Lin’s one season with the Hornets but also a few non-calls from his two-year stint with the Rockets. Lin said he’s not sure whether this has always been the case for him or something that has happened more recently.
“I don’t really see what the other flagrants are,” Lin told the Observer. “That video puts it next to some other ones. I don’t know. I just know this is my experience, and I never thought, oh these fouls, I should be getting flagrant fouls.
“When you’re in the heat of the game, how it looks isn’t always how it feels. I’m going through everything and you take contact every play.”
An aggressive player
Lin is an aggressive player, and he has continued that style of play while becoming more of a shooting guard with the Hornets than his previous point guard position.
He drives to the basket 6.7 times per game this season, which ranks 35th in the league. Among the 61 players who drive at least five times a game, Lin ranks 28th in free-throw attempts with 1.6 off drives per game. That statistic would suggest he’s almost average, with just as many players (who may get calls over him) above him as below.
Lin saw the video over the weekend as it became viral. Several of his friends texted him a link to it, and he admits he was surprised to see just how hard some of the fouls were.
“It is what it is. I just want to keep playing hard,” Lin said. “It’s one of those things where I made a rule of myself halfway through the season that I’m not going to argue with refs. Whatever happens, happens. It helps me stay focused on basketball.
“Really in the last whatever many games, I really haven’t had any interaction with the refs. It’s helpful to me to stay focused. Aside from that, whatever happens with the video or whoever sees it or whatever changes happen, that’s beyond my control.
“I can’t really comment on … people who make decisions are going to see it or whatever. So at this point, just keep playing man.”
Two of the most egregious fouls compiled in the video got a laugh out of Lin. The first came in a December game against the Lakers as he drove past former teammate Kobe Bryant.
Lin drove into the lane and appeared to look to the corner for an open Nic Batum 3-point attempt. Instead, Lin was clotheslined in midair by Bryant, who was called for a common foul.
Bryant seemed bewildered he was called for a foul at all, whereas he could have been called for a flagrant 1, which is “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent.”
“But that one,” Lin smiled, “I will say he did get ball first, too.”
In January, Lin was the recipient of another blow from one of the league’s stars. New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony appeared to uppercut Lin in the face on a fast-break drive.
Anthony wasn’t called for a foul at all. Arron Afflalo was charged with a common foul after making contact with Lin.
“Honestly the Melo foul, I thought Afflalo fouled me,” Lin said. “It wasn’t until I watched it that I said, oh, Melo fouled me. I didn’t even know where the foul came from. I’m not too shocked by it. You just go with it.”
A racial component?
So no harm, no foul? Well, not exactly.
Some on the Internet have charged that officials are not making these calls in Lin’s favor because he’s Asian. Lin has not publicly addressed that claim, though in fairness, I, regretfully, didn’t ask.
There’s no doubt the NBA – probably the most culturally diverse sports league in America – is aware of this by now. He’s one of the most popular players in an Asian demographic the league has worked for years to capture.
Michael Bass, the NBA’s executive director of communications, said in a statement that all of the fouls in the video were eventually reviewed and that none was deemed a flagrant foul given the full circumstances, angles and comparables from past games.
“Referees do make mistakes, which means they miss calls that should have been made,” Bass said in the statement. “When that occurs, we collect the data and provide referees with feedback to ensure improvement.”
And maybe word has spread from the league office to officials. Before Charlotte’s 114-100 victory Monday night over the Boston Celtics, Lin had attempted at least 10 free throws in just 16 of his 367 career games. Only twice this season had Lin gotten at least 10 free throw attempts.
Monday, he went 10-for-10 from the line and scored a game-high 25 points.
“Maybe they did,” Lin laughed when asked if the league saw the video. “You never know. Some of these things, you never know how it happens.”