By Barry Janoff
February 15, 2012: The NBA knows you can't throw a great party without the most popular guy in the class. And right now that would be Jeremy Lin.
The NBA is preparing to invite the second-year player to the BBVA Rising Stars game, which will air on TNT on Feb. 24 as part of the NBA’s All-Star Weekend in Orlando.
According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Lin will be selected during a "supplementary draft" during the the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge Draft on Thursday, Feb. 16, live on NBA TV (7 PM ET).
The NBA and Turner Sports solidified the decision following Lin's performance last night, during which he scored 27 points, had 11 assists and the game-winning three-point shot with 0.5 seconds to play during the New York Knicks 90-87 win over the Toronto Raptors,
The exhibition game will see rookies and sophomores on opposite teams, but this year with a twist: Opposing "General Managers" Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley will get to pick from among the pool of first- and second-year players.
The 23-year-old point guard was not included in the original pool of 18 players named on Feb. 8 — selected by the NBA's assistant coaches — as he was only two games into this meteoric rise as a starter. Now, having started six consecutive games and having led the Knicks to six consecutive wins, "Linsanity" cannot be ignored.
"This would be good [for the NBA] business-wise. He has taken New York by storm," said O'Neal during a Turner Sports phone media conference on Feb. 14 - which was rechristened by NBA fans as "Va-LIN-tine's Day." “This is one of those great Rocky-style stories. It’s not like if he gets in that game that anybody would be upset."
"We'd all like to see him in the [Rising Stars Game]," TNT analyst Steve Kerr said during the media conference. "I'm not involved in the process, but I imagine that there would be talk of that with the powers that be."
"People want to see what the guy can do," said O'Neal.
What Lin has done is this. Lin's number for the past seven games:
Feb. 3 vs. Boston (91-89 L): Played but did not start : 2 points, 1 assist, 2 rebounds.
Feb. 4 vs. Nets (99-92 W): 25 pts., 7 assts., 5 rebs., 2 steals.
Feb. 6 vs. Utah (99-88 W): 28 pts., 8 assts., 2 rebs., 2 steals.
Feb. 8 vs. Washington (107-93 W) 23 pts. 10 assts., 4 rebs., 1 steal.
Feb. 10 vs. LA Lakers (92-85 W): 38 pts., 7 assts. 4 reb,. 2 steals.
Feb. 11 vs. Minnesota (100-98 W): 20 pts., 8 assts., 6 reb., 3 steals.
Feb. 14 vs. Toronto (90-87 W): 27 pts. 11 assts. 2 rebs., 1 steal.
Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Harvard by the Golden State Warriors in 2010, he appeared in 29 games and scored 76 points with 42 assists and 33 steals. He was waived by the Warriors on Dec. 9, signed as a free agent by the Houston Rockets on Dec. 11, then subsequently waived by the Rockets and signed as a free agent by the Knicks on Dec. 27. He was sent to the Erie BayHawks of the NBA's Developmental League in January, and in his only game there showed hoops nation what was to come. Starting against the Maine Red Claws, he had a triple-double: 28 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds.
He became a starter when the Knicks were 8-15 and out of the playoff pool. Going into tonight's home game against the Sacramento Kings at Madison Square Garden, the team is 14-15 and in the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
Lin had more points in first five starts than any player since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77: Lin 136, Shaquille O'Neal 129.
Kerr called Lin the biggest surprise player of the first half of the NBA season. "It's been a bizarre season, what with the lockout and so many injuries. But the biggest surprise player, that's a pretty easy one. What's happened with Jeremy Lin is just stunning. We are all in amazement at what we are seeing. It has made for an incredible storyline. I'm sure [Turner] is trying to put Knicks games back on our telecasts."
ABC actually gets the next national telecast, with the Knicks hosting the Dallas Mavericks at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Feb. 19.
"It's made for an incredible storyline, given that he's breathed life back into that franchise where Carmelo Anthony couldn't." — Steve Kerr
TNT's Kenny Smith will serve as the honorary Commissioner and Ernie Johnson will host the live BBVA Rising Stars Challenge Draft on Thursday, Feb. 16, on NBA TV (7 p.m. ET).
The sophomore pool includes reigning Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings), Landry Fields (New York Knicks), Paul George (Indiana Pacers), Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz), Greg Monroe (Detroit Pistons), Tiago Splitter (San Antonio Spurs), Evan Turner (Philadelphia 76ers), and John Wall (Washington Wizards).
The rookie pool includes Kyrie Irving, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2011 NBA draft (Cleveland Cavaliers), Ricky Rubio, who ranks third in the NBA in assists (Minnesota Timberwolves), MarShon Brooks (New Jersey Nets), Brandon Knight (Detroit Pistons), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs), Markieff Morris (Phoenix Suns), Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats), and Derrick Williams (Minnesota Timberwolves).
"We're all in amazement at what we're seeing," Kerr said. "It's made for an incredible storyline, given that he's breathed life back into that franchise where Carmelo Anthony couldn't . . . It's a crazy story, but it's fantastic."