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Thursday, February 16, 2012
Mark Cuban on Linsanity bandwagon, for now

By Tim MacMahon

DALLAS -- Count Mark Cuban as a fan of Linsanity, at least for a few more days.

Jeremy Lin
The Mavs had hoped to develop Jeremy Lin with the D-League Texas Legends. He has instead turned into a star with the Knicks, and Mark Cuban says that's great for the business of basketball.
The Dallas Mavericks' owner, whose team visits Madison Square Garden on Sunday, considers point guard Jeremy Lin's out-of-nowhere emergence as a star for the New York Knicks great for the business of basketball in large part because the sudden phenomenon has captured the fascination of the nation's biggest media market.

"If it was happening in Charlotte, no one would know," Cuban said, exaggerating for effect.

But it's happening in New York, where Lin has put a star-laden but struggling franchise on his shoulders during a seven-game winning streak, averaging 24.4 points and 9.1 assists in that span. The second-year point guard, who was undrafted out of Harvard and waived by the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets in December, has become somewhat of an instant international icon.

"New York is still kind of the mecca of the media for basketball," Cuban said. "It's great for the league, so you've got to love it. And Jeremy Lin is a great kid, so I'm happy for him."

The fact that Lin is the first Asian-American starter in NBA history adds intrigue to his fascinating underdog tale, Cuban said.

"Oh, absolutely," Cuban said. "I don't know about cultural impact. It's just because it's a question of the odds. Just statistically speaking, not culturally speaking, it's an aberration for the same reason that Yao [Ming] and Yi [Jianlian] and some of the other Asian players were.

"Whenever an underdog comes out of nowhere and doesn't fit a particular profile ... Everybody profiles athletes, right? So to have him come in and be counter to everybody's profile or expectations -- right or wrong -- draws attention and that's good. Hopefully, that will encourage other kids and even more diversity with kids who play basketball."

Lin started his NBA career with the Mavericks' Las Vegas summer league team in 2010, when he was the best guard on a roster that included recent Dallas first-round picks Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones. Lin's stock rose significantly when he outplayed Washington's John Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, in a Las Vegas summer league game.

The Mavericks, who wanted to Lin to develop for a season with their D-League affiliate Texas Legends, offered him a one-year guaranteed contract. However, Lin opted to return to his native Bay Area when the Warriors offered him a two-year deal.

The Warriors let Lin go while clearing salary cap space after the lockout was lifted in an unsuccessful attempt to sign center DeAndre Jordan. The Rockets picked Lin up and waived him a couple of weeks later on Christmas Eve, creating a roster spot to sign center Samuel Dalembert. And the Knicks had planned to part with Lin before his contract became guaranteed until he suddenly started producing like an elite point guard.

There is no longer any question about whether Lin, who didn't get a single Division I scholarship offer, is good enough to play in the NBA. The question is whether he will be a great NBA point guard.

"We'll see," Cuban said. "The question with every rookie isn't, 'Where are you at?' It's, 'What's your makeup to get better?'

"[There are] a lot of comparisons to Steve Nash. Everybody was booing Nash [early in his tenure in Dallas]. Everybody thought he was a mistake because he just showed flashes and wasn't consistent. But Nashie worked his ass off and we see where he is today, 90 years later. Jeremy has that kind of makeup, too, but you never know."

Cuban, like many others, is rooting for Lin from afar. Cuban just won't root for Lin from courtside seats.

"For obvious reasons," Cuban said, "I hope Linsanity comes to an abrupt and screeching end when we play them on Sunday."