The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current, June 20, 2016, Page Page 8, Image 8

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June 20, 2016
Asians in American sports w Asian Americans in world sports
Lin’s Hornets on the rise, Spoelstra’s Heat on the decline
By Mike Street
Special to The Asian Reporter
AP Photo/Steve Dykes
AP Photo/Morry Gash
sian-American talent in the
National Basketball Association
(NBA) seems headed in two
different directions. Jeremy Lin led the
rising Charlotte Hornets to their first
playoff win in 14 years, though they
eventually fell in the first round. Coach
Erik Spoelstra led the team that defeated
them, the Miami Heat, who lost in the
second round to the Toronto Raptors. Even
though they exited the playoffs sooner, the
Hornets felt triumphant, while Spoelstra
and the Heat were disappointed.
Spoelstra, the NBA’s first Filipino-
American head coach, felt disappointed
only because he had previously reached
dizzying heights. From 2010 through
2014, Spoelstra had one of the best lineups
in league history, with point guard
Dwyane Wade, power forward Chris Bosh,
and forward LeBron James.
James, considered one of the best
players ever, was key to the Heat’s success,
helping them reach four straight NBA
Finals, winning two. But James opted out
of the final year of his contract to return to
the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Heat hasn’t been the same since. In
2015, injuries hammered the team, which
lost Bosh down the stretch, and Miami
missed the playoffs for the first time since
Spoelstra became head coach.
This season, the Heat added point guard
Goran Dragic and rookie small forward
Justise Winslow, while second-year center
Hassan Whiteside led the NBA in blocks.
The team again lost Bosh down the
stretch, but Miami still finished first in the
Southeast Division, securing the Eastern
Conference’s third playoff seed.
In the first round of the playoffs, the
Heat faced the Charlotte Hornets, whose
surge in the second half of the season was
fuelled by Chinese-American point guard
Jeremy Lin. Lin exploded onto the NBA
scene in 2012 with the New York Knicks,
creating the “Linsanity” phenomenon and
its “Lin” puns for his ability to take over
the game in the fourth quarter.
After that successful breakout, Lin was
signed by the Houston Rockets, where he
slipped from starter to reserve before
being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers,
where he remained on the bench. Once his
contract was up, Lin inked a two-year deal
with Charlotte worth far less than his
previous contract with the Rockets. Amid
eroding offensive numbers, Lin was now
seen as a bench player to boost Charlotte’s
second-team offense.
Lin served well in this role, occasionally
starting before catching fire in the second
half of the season. In March, he scored 29
points to lead Charlotte to a 23-point
comeback against the San Antonio Spurs,
and then poured in 25 points three weeks
later to help the Hornets defeat the Boston
Celtics in the Garden.
But Lin really shone in the playoffs
against Miami. After Charlotte lost the
first two games in the series, Lin dropped
18 points on the Heat in Game 3, giving the
Hornets its first playoff win since 2002. He
followed this up with a 21-point
performance in Game 4, tying his best
playoff performance ever, and the 89-85
win by the Hornets evened the series at
two apiece heading back to Miami.
The home team had won each of the first
four games, and the Heat had won its home
games in the series by an average of 22
points. So everyone expected Spoelstra to
rally Miami to a Game 5 victory. Instead,
Lin electrified off the bench again, scoring
14, with six rebounds and a team-high
seven assists. His effort helped Charlotte
outscore the Heat 25-17 in the fourth
quarter to win Game 5, 90-88.
The Hornets headed back home for
Game 6, ready to win their first playoff
series since 2002. But Spoelstra and
Miami stifled Courtney Lee and Marvin
Williams, who had combined for 31 points
in Game 5. In Game 6, Lee scored just two
points and Williams was shut out entirely,
while Lin scored only eight points, adding
one assist and one rebound.
For their part, the Heat put together a
true team effort, with five players scoring
in double digits. Their 97-90 win sent the
series back to Miami for a crucial Game 7.
On their home court, the Heat outscored
the Hornets 29-18 in the first quarter and
never looked back. They held the lead
throughout, once again sharing double-
digit scoring among five players, while
holding Lin in check with just nine points.
“I think our basketball team needed to
go through that,” said Spoelstra after the
(#7) of the Charlotte Hornets shoots past Miles
Plumlee of the Milwaukee Bucks during a National
Basketball Association (NBA) game in Milwaukee,
Wisconsin, in this March 26, 2016 file photo. In
the bottom photo, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra
motions to his team during an NBA basketball game
against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Oregon,
in this April 2, 2016 file photo.
Heat’s victory, “to be pushed and find a
different level which we showed in the last
two games.” But the series wore down the
Heat before its gruelling second-round
contest against the Toronto Raptors, who
also took seven games to defeat the Pacers,
winning their first playoff series victory
since 2001.
The Heat and Raptors split the first four
games, three of which went into overtime.
Toronto took the crucial Game 5, 99-91, at
home, but Miami won Game 6, 103-91,
setting up yet another Game 7 for the two
battle-worn teams. With the home-court
advantage, the Raptors leaned hard on
their backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar
DeRozan, who scored 35 and 28, respec-
tively. Their center, Bismack Biyombo,
scored 17 and dominated the glass,
dragging down 16 rebounds.
Spoelstra and Miami’s backcourt could
not respond, as Wade and Dragic combined
for just 32 points on 12-for-30 shooting.
Though the game stayed close for the first
three quarters, Toronto pulled away in the
final frame, outscoring Miami 30-11.
Spoelstra said after the game, “Their most
aggressive, most energetic burst was at
the beginning of that fourth quarter, and
they put it away.”
Looking ahead to next season, Lin
should remain a valuable bench player
who will keep the Hornets on the rise.
Spoelstra and the Heat, on the other hand,
face a crossroads. They are still under
contract to the fragile Bosh, while starters
Wade, Whiteside, and Luol Deng are all
free agents. They could retain their core or
makes some trades and shift in a whole
new direction. Asian-American sports fans
will be anxious to see if their favorite coach
can match the trajectory of their favorite
Ichiro surpasses 4,257 hits in Japan, big leagues
By Jay Paris
The Associated Press
AN DIEGO — With two hits in a
game against the San Diego Padres,
Ichiro Suzuki raised his career total
in the Japanese and North American
major leagues to 4,257, passing Pete Rose’s
record Major League Baseball (MLB) total.
“This wasn’t like a goal of mine to get to
this point,” Suzuki said through a
translator after the Marlins lost 3-6 to the
San Diego Padres.
Suzuki had 1,278 hits for Orix in Japan’s
Pacific League (1992-2000) and has 2,979
with Seattle, the New York Yankees, and
the Marlins. Rose was quoted recently by
USA Today as saying: “I’m not trying to
take anything away from Ichiro, he’s had a
Hall of Fame career, but the next thing you
know, they’ll be counting his high-school
“Obviously, I’ve heard of Pete Rose’s
comments, and he wasn’t happy about
what they are saying about this record,”
Suzuki said. “To be honest, this wasn’t
something that I was making out as a goal.
It was just kind of a weird situation to be in
because of the combined total.”
Suzuki’s first hit was on a dribbler in the
first inning. His second was a double into
the right-field corner in the ninth.
“For me, it’s not about the record,” Suzu-
ki said. “It’s about my teammates and the
Marlins president David Samson
watched while having a sushi dinner in
HUMBLE PROFESSIONAL. Ichiro Suzuki of the Miami Marlins hits a single during the first inning
of a baseball game in San Diego on June 15, 2016. Suzuki singled in the first inning to match Pete Rose’s
major-league hit record of 4,256. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
“He is a true humble professional who
“Ichiro gets a hit in the first inning and I works as hard when he’s 0 for 5 as when
loudly cheer. He looks at the TV and says he’s 5 for 5. That skill cannot be taught. In
‘Ichiro!’ and the first thing he does is put a world where sports athlete are rarely
down the tuna and extend his hand, and role models, Ichiro is a true role model off
then he reaches to pull up his white coat and on the field.”
like it’s Ichiro’s jersey and gets into Ichiro’s
Melvin Upton Jr. homered and had two
batting stance,” Samson said of the chef. RBIs, and Derek Norris had a go-ahead,
“That to me was the most symbolic mo- two-run single for the Padres, who stopped
ment as it relates to Ichiro and his career. a four-game losing streak.
He transcends borders and demographics
Luis Perdomo (2-2) allowed three runs
and religion and race. He does something and six hits in six innings. It was the
very few people do. He does his job.”
fourth big-league start for the 23-year-old
Suzuki joined the Marlins ahead of the right-hander, taken by Colorado from St.
2015 season.
Louis in December’s winter meeting draft
“If you could have 25 Ichiros, you would and acquired by the Padres later that day.
have 25 World Series rings.” Samson said.
Continued on page 11